Tonight, our little city went on high alert as a favorite hangout went from dinner and cheers for KU basketball to a full on crime scene investigation with three victims and the alleged shooter at large in the nearby neighborhoods. Not only were the surrounding neighborhoods and schools on high alert as the police put them on lockdown, but many had the opportunity to watch the investigation unfold live on social media and speculate with their comments.
The human brain is not designed to last long in a high alert, dangerous situations like this. The negative effects are so real and true that the resulting affect on our brain has a name – Disaster Trauma. You might know it by another name, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, many of us only associate this with those individuals that are directly involved in the events, like the victims of the shooting. Children are often especially susceptible to the negative effects and Disaster Trauma because their brains are still in development and they don’t yet have all the cognitive skills they need to make sense of something of this magnitude. In fact, if those around them are not coping well, this can compound their stress and it becomes more complicated.
So, what do we do? First, adults to need to be quick to recognize that they are having a problem coping and seek help. Like your flight attendant would tell you, “secure the airbag to yourself before helping others.” Shock and trauma can be real for adults and we sometimes reason it away. When we have secured ourselves, we are then healthy and secure to help others. Here are some resources to get started:
- The American Counseling Association has created a fact sheet about PTSD/Disaster Trauma so you can learn more HERE.
- The National Institute for Mental Health has put together this excellent publication: Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters
- The Child Advocate has a printable booklet to help parents be good advocates for children who may be suffering with Disaster Trauma. Find it HERE.
There is a natural curiosity about all the details surrounding events like this. We may publicly banter over the issues around the unfolding of events of violence. Let’s not forget that there are many more innocent among us than there are guilty parties, and ultimately it is compassion that makes us all human. Justice will not return us to “normal” and hate will not give back our innocence. When we turn towards each other with kindness, we heal each other and ourselves. Let’s do our part to restore the peace in our community – first with ourselves and then with those around us.