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Tragic events happen so often that the typical consumer has become desensitized. However, some tragedies can still cause a deep emotional response. Saturday’s shooting in Tucson, Ariz. was just another reminder of how quickly innocent lives can be taken – 14 people were injured and six were killed.
Even though most people don’t know the shooting victims personally, many were still emotionally affected by the deaths, injuries and safety concerns involved with the shooting. There can be stress, anxiety and even depression after hearing about such events in the news. Although there are multiple stories about survival and compassion, there can still be a teary-eyed reaction upon reading about the shocking recovery of Gabrielle Giffords after being shot in the head, the intern who is thought to have saved her life, as well as the husband who gave up his own life to help save his wife.
Two psychologists in Arizona shared their views on emotional responses related to such tragedies like the recent mass shooting, as well as how to cope with these events.
Stephanie Vitanza, a licensed psychologist in Arizona, specializes in trauma cases and hadn’t heard any clients talking about the shooting as of Monday. However, she explained that a common reaction after tragic events like the shooting is shock, disbelief and surprise.
“What we see next often is looking for answers why, and then we do see the depression and the anxiety and more of the sadness and the anger,” Vitanza said. “That’s where we might begin to see distressing symptoms occur.”
The response and coping strategies depend on the individual. For example, someone who has a history of depression or anxiety, or someone who is stressed often, could have a greater emotional response and take longer to get over certain catastrophes.
She added that for someone who had to deal with a stressful or distressing event in the past, the new event could “reopen all those feelings.”
The best way to deal with an emotional reaction after such upsetting events is to turn to friends and family for support.