by Amanda Ballif
Jul 21st, 2022
Addressing Trauma and Mass Violence
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Date: June 16, 2022 Categories: Mental Health, Trauma
By: Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use
Our hearts go out to all experiencing loss and grief from the tragic mass shootings and other forms of community violence from Buffalo, NY to Uvalde, TX and in many other locations across our nation.
Please know that SAMHSA stands with you during these troubling times and offers support to help you and your loved ones cope with this trauma, including our Disaster Distress Helpline – call or text 1-800-985-5990 (for Spanish, press “2”) to be connected to a trained counselor 24/7/365.
The SAMHSA-funded National Child Traumatic Stress Network has developed a range of resources to help children, families, educators, and communities including the following that you can access via these links:
Talking to Children about the Shooting
Helping Youth After a Community Trauma: Tips for Educators (En Español)
Talking to Teens about Violence (En Español)
Coping After Mass Violence: For Adults
For Teens: Coping After Mass Violence (En Español)
Helping School-Age Children with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Caregivers (En Español)
Helping Teens with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Caregivers (En Español)
Helping Young Children with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Caregivers (En Español)
After a Crisis: Helping Young Children Heal
SAMHSA identifies (PDF | 789 KB) that trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. Trauma is often a precursor to violence and mass shootings. Research sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) reveal links between childhood trauma and violence. Childhood trauma can build hopelessness, despair, isolation, and self-loathing and violence toward oneself and others.
As we look to prevent violence, it is important that we seek ways to prevent ACEs, including reducing physical, sexual and emotional abuse, domestic violence and bullying. We must start early in our families, in our schools, and in our communities to undertake this needed prevention, and we must start early to support youth in developing resilience and coping strategies early through social-emotional learning and similar approaches. SAMHSA has established the Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, Project LAUNCH, Project AWARE, and the Interagency Task Force for Trauma-Informed Care to support the development and implementation of solutions to such issues.
As we address the trauma of mass violence, it is also important to highlight the fact that the vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else; studies indicate that only 3-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illness are 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.
We know that while trauma has both short and long-term effects, people can heal and recover from traumatic events. Resources such as those above can help as can treatment and services. You can find help at our National Helpline at 1-800-662 (4357) and on-line at findtreatment.samhsa.gov.
SAMHSA partners with states, counties, tribes, faith groups, providers, people with lived experience and others to build resilient communities that can both prevent and heal from trauma. After events of mass violence, it’s easy to feel helpless, like there is little we can do. In fact, we can help individuals, families, and communities build resilience and connect with others to cope together.