Ask Dr. Nandi: Calming anxiety and fear in yourself and others after a mass shooting

mental health file
Posted at 4:07 PM, Feb 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-14 18:18:50-05

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, the mass shooting at Michigan State University has shocked many students and families. During these emotional times, it’s important to take care of ourselves and our loved ones.

First of all, my sincere condolences to the families of the students who were shot and those who died. It’s heartbreaking that we have yet another senseless mass shooting.

Now, as a parent, it’s natural to feel like you want to protect your children from these devastating events. But in today’s world, kids have access to social media and online information, so it’s best to tackle the subject head-on. Of course, it’s important to have age-appropriate conversations. What’d I talk to a university student about is not what I’d share with my younger kids.

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give – regardless of age - is to have open communication. Don’t be afraid to questions. And let them express their feelings and opinions. Even if what they share doesn’t match your thinking, it’s extremely important for them to be heard.

Also, feeling scared and sad are normal reactions. Some people will feel angry, others frustrated. No matter what the age, everyone will feel a little unsettled after an unfathomable mass shooting takes place so close to home.

Here are some things to look out for:

  • Not being able to sleep or having bad dreams or nightmares
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Having negative thoughts or images
  • Loss of interest in things that used to matter
  • Feeling unsafe

If your child, yourself, or a loved one suffers from fear that seriously hampers your life, then it’s time to speak to your doctor or find a therapist or support group to work through these emotions. Don’t shove or bury feelings, as this can affect mental health.

In addition, I also recommend that you try to keep to your normal schedule regarding after-school or after-work activities, family chores, and homework. Limit how much news you or your family is exposed to. Be sure to focus on the fact that this type of violence is considered rare. And a good way to make yourself or your loved ones feel better is to get involved in positive change. You can reach out to victims, donate to charities supporting victims, or advocate for better gun laws or improved mental health services.