OPPA expresses condolences to all affected by the mass shooting in Dayton
Disaster resources are available
The Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Association expresses its condolences to those affected by the tragic mass shootings in downtown Dayton. As the potential mental health impact of this situation increases for our local communities, the OPPA offers tips and resources on how to minimize possible mental and emotional effects of trauma caused by the shootings.
At least nine people are dead and more than two dozen wounded after someone opened fire in downtown Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday. In addition, the suspected shooter was shot and killed by responding officers within one minute of opening fire.
- We are concerned that this tragedy may cause significant distress and pose a potential threat to the mental health of those involved. It is important for everyone to know that psychiatric help is available, and treatment does work.
- As friends, families and coworkers over the coming days and weeks begin to deal with this event, they all need to understand that this type of trauma can have a tremendous psychological impact on those affected. Individuals may have various stress reactions that present psychological as well as physical symptoms. The causes behind such incidents are often complex, and there are usually no simple answers.
- By working together, parents, teachers, advisors, health care professionals and other concerned individuals can develop effective strategies to identify individuals who need help.
- We do not know if the shooter was diagnosed with a mental Illness, but it’s important to point out that most people with mental illness are not violent. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 3 to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with serious mental illness are at higher risk of being victims of violence than perpetrators.
Coping After Trauma:
- Keep informed about new information and developments, but avoid overexposure to news rebroadcasts of the event. Be sure to use credible information sources to avoid speculation and rumors.
- If you feel anxious, angry or depressed, you are not alone. Talk to friends, family or peers who likely are experiencing the same feelings.
- If you have contact with children, keep open dialogues with them regarding their fears of danger. Let them know that, with time, healing from a tragedy is likely and hoped for. Don’t minimize the dangers, but talk about your ability to cope with tragedy and get through the ordeal. Avoid subjecting children to overexposure to news of the traumatic event.
- Feelings of fear, sadness and anger following a traumatic event are natural and may persist for days or much longer. If significant symptoms continue, or if these feelings begin to overwhelm you, seek the advice of a psychiatric physician in your local community. For more information on coping with mental illnesses, visit the APA’s patient / public education website: www.psychiatry.org/mental-health.
Talking to Children about Traumatic Events:
Traumatic events such as this are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, many young children feel frightened and confused. As parents, teachers and caring adults, we can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent and supportive manner. Fortunately, most children, even those exposed to trauma, are quite resilient. By creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, we can help them cope with stressful events and experiences, and reduce the risk of lasting emotional difficulties. Although these may be difficult conversations, they are important.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to talk with children about such tragic events. However, here are some suggestions that you may find helpful:
- Create an open and supportive environment where children know they can ask questions. At the same time, it’s best not to force children to talk about things unless and until they’re ready.
- Give children honest answers and information. Children will usually know, or eventually find out, if you’re “making things up.” It may affect their ability to trust you or your reassurances in the future.
- Use words and concepts children can understand. Gear your explanations to the child’s age, language, and developmental level.
- Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times. Some information may be hard to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may also be a way for a child to ask for reassurance.
- Acknowledge and validate the child’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate.
- Remember that children tend to personalize situations. For example, they may worry about their own safety and the safety of immediate family members, friends and neighbors.
- Be reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises.
- Help children find ways to express themselves. Some children may not want to talk about their thoughts, feeling, or fears. They may be more comfortable drawing pictures, playing with toys or writing stories or poems.
- Let children know that lots of people are helping the families affected by the shootings. It’s a good opportunity to show children that when something scary happens, there are people to help.
- Children learn from watching their parents and teachers. They will be very interested in how you respond to this tragedy. They also learn from listening to your conversations with other adults.
- Don’t let children watch too much television / news coverage with frightening images. The repetition of such scenes can be disturbing and confusing.
- Children who have experienced trauma or losses in the past are particularly vulnerable to prolonged or intense reactions to news or images of the traumatic event. These children may need extra support and attention.
- Monitor for physical symptoms including headaches and stomachaches. Many children express anxiety through physical aches and pains. An increase in such symptoms without apparent medical cause may be a sign that a child is feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
- Children who are preoccupied with questions or concerns about the tragedy should be evaluated by a trained and qualified mental health professional. Other signs that a child may need additional help include ongoing sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts or worries, or recurring fears about death. If these behaviors persist, ask your child’s pediatrician, family physician or school counselor to help arrange an appropriate referral.
- Although parents and teachers may follow the news and the daily events with close scrutiny, many children just want to be children. They’d rather play ball, games or climb trees.