Tips for Coping with the Aftermath of Mass Shootings

August 7, 2019, 4:10 pm | David Brown

two women talking by JackF/, Iowa – Reports of mass shootings, along with follow-up commentary, have been prominently featured in the news and on social media over the past few weeks.

Although mass shootings are statistically rare events, the stress these events may trigger can be overwhelming for some people.  

“We need to be better prepared to understand the reactions these shootings may evoke and how to better cope with them,” notes David Brown, behavioral health state specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Some potential reactions could include shock, anger, numbness, anxiety, sadness and grief.  

“We may feel less safe and in constant danger given the randomness and extreme violence of these events,” Brown said. 

Increasing resiliency

Brown shares the following advice from the American Psychological Association for increasing personal resiliency.

  • 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 which 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 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.

More resources

Contact Iowa Concern. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. Iowa Concern provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics.

To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or, visit the website,, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.

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 (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.

Visit Human Sciences Extension and Outreach’s “Finding Answers Now” website for additional information and resources on dealing with stress.


Photo credit: JackF/


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