Help Yourself Cope in the Aftermath of Mass Shootings

May 26, 2022, 10:37 am | David Brown

AMES, Iowa – Many people have experienced anguish and distress related to the reports of recent mass shootings prominently featured in the news and on social media, especially since the shootings have involved children. Some potential reactions could include shock, anger, numbness, anxiety, sadness and grief.

"We may feel less safe and in constant danger given the extreme violence of these events," said David Brown, behavioral health state specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.  

Individual capabilities for resiliency

two women in conversation by Scott Griessel/“Despite the media prominence and the stress they may produce, mass shootings are statistically rare events. However, we still need to be better prepared to understand the reactions these shootings may evoke and how to better cope with them,” Brown said.  

The American Psychological Association offers the following advice.  

  • Talk about it. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Receiving support and care can be comforting and reassuring.
  • Strive for balance. When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that viewpoint by reminding yourself of people and events that are meaningful and comforting, even encouraging.
  • Turn it off and take a break. You may want to keep informed but try to limit the amount of news you take in whether it is from social media, television, newspapers or magazines. Also, schedule some breaks to distract yourself from thinking about the incident and focus instead on something you enjoy. Try to do something that will lift your spirits.
  • Honor your feelings. Remember that it is common to have a range of emotions after a traumatic incident. You may experience intense stress similar to the effects of a physical injury. For example, you may feel exhausted, sore or off balance.
  • Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest and build physical activity into your day. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
  • Help others. Locate resources in your community on ways that you can help people who have been affected by this incident or have other needs. Helping someone else often has the benefit of making you feel better, too.

“If these tips do not help or if your reactions interfere with relationships, school or work, you can find local mental health professionals by going to,” Brown said.

Additional resources

Consider calling the Iowa Concern Hotline. This resource from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers confidential assistance and referral for stress, legal questions and financial concerns. Iowa Concern can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-447-1985 or at

The Disaster Distress Helpline provides crisis counseling and support for anyone in the U.S. experiencing distress or other behavioral health concerns related to any natural or human-caused disaster. Calls (1-800-985-5990) and texts (text “TalkWithUs” to 66746) are answered by network crisis centers, who provide psychological first aid, crisis assessment and intervention, and referrals to local behavioral health services for follow-up care and support.

Other ISU Extension and Outreach resources can be found at


Photo credit: Scott Griessel/

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