To the Editor:
On behalf of Westborough Youth & Family Services, I offer our condolences to the victims and loved ones impacted by the mass shootings that occurred this weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Youth & Family Services rejects violence and hate and is supportive and inclusive of all people. We strive to create an environment that supports that central value.
We recognize that you don’t have to experience violence directly to be negatively impacted by it. Repeated exposure to news about violence through TV, newspapers, radio, social media and conversations can have a cumulative harmful effect that may include feelings of sadness, anger, helplessness, grief, fear, numbness or shock. These reactions may lead to difficulty sleeping and concentrating, changes in appetite, irritability or crying. While these symptoms and feelings commonly fade over time, the degree of impact varies between individuals and may require added attention and self-care to healthfully cope and recover. The American Psychological Association1 offers these tips:
- Talk about it with people who care about you and will listen to your concerns.
- Take a break from media exposure. Reduce stressors. Downtime is important.
- Acknowledge and honor your feelings, and know that you are not alone in your reaction.
- Practice daily self-care by eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.
- Help others in your community.
- Seek professional help from a doctor or mental health professional if you are having difficulty functioning or are unable to complete your daily activities.
If you are an adult supporting children in the aftermath of mass violence, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network2 has published a number of downloadable tip sheets with these and other simple recommendations about understanding and talking to kids:
- Common reactions in children following exposure to violence include fear for safety of self and others, focus on the violent event, changes in concentration, eating, sleep, mood and behavior.
- Talk with children and invite them to talk about their feelings and questions. Find out what they know and answer questions truthfully with developmentally appropriate language. At the same time, don’t push kids to talk if they don’t want to.
- Limit children’s exposure to media.
- Set an example for self-care and promote children’s self-care.
- Help children feel safe by informing them of protections in place.
- Be patient and consistent; maintain rules and routines.
- Seek professional help from a doctor or mental health professional if your child is having difficulty functioning or is unable to complete daily activities.
The mission of Westborough Youth and Family Services is to provide counseling and social services to Westborough residents and to promote behavioral health and wellness for the entire community. We are a resource for you. For direct support, information and referrals, please contact us at 508-366-3090.
Cara Presley, LICSW
Director, Westborough Youth & Family Services