This weekend’s tragic attack on Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, reminds us of how far-reaching the impact of violent events can be. News of violent events can have a significant impact on all of us whether or not a particular instance of violence has affected us directly. Understanding a bit about how we, as humans, process extremely troubling information can be helpful.

At the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center, as at so many other organizations around the country and the world, our first thoughts are for the families and friends of the victims killed and injured in this weekend’s shooting.

As a provider of counseling services for the University community, our attention turns next to UVA students in need of support at this difficult time as well as to UVA staff, faculty and members of the Charlottesville community who need to locate appropriate support services. If you feel counseling might be helpful, please call our counseling line at (434) 982-2252, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we will try to assist you with either consultation, counseling, or referrals for other appropriate help. If you feel you are in crisis, however, please do not leave a message as it is important to seek immediate help. Instead please call 911, walk in to the UVA Emergency Room, or call Region Ten Crisis at (434) 972-1800. UVA students can also walk in to CAPS, or call (434) 243-5150 (after hours, (434) 972-7004).

Even when shaken by terrible news, not everyone needs counseling services. That said, information about how you might be processing can be helpful, as can some reminders about self-care.

News of a violent event challenges our fundamental expectations of the world in which we carry out our day-to-day routines. Many people are sometimes surprised by the degree to which such news can affect them, even when the news is about people elsewhere that they do not know. To help, the Women’s Center’s counseling staff have created a short fact sheet about trauma to help you understand how your brain is struggling with what you are seeing and hearing.

You should also be aware that ongoing news coverage and discussions with friends and family can exacerbate our internal reactions to news of a violent event. Consider taking breaks from social media and the news if you are feeling overwhelmed. Taking a break does not mean that you do not care. It means that you realize that viewing more than feels right will not help.

While processing information about violent events, continue to ensure that the full range of your physical, mental and emotional needs are met, including especially adequate sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and relaxation. As on an airplane, where you are told to place your own air mask before helping others, it is important to remember that by taking care of yourself, you will be better able to effectively engage however you choose going forward.

Some specific tips include:

  • Set limits for how long at a time you will talk or think about subjects that you know will increase your stress.
  • Be compassionate with yourself and others. Everyone responds differently at stressful times.
  • Be as open and honest as possible with family and friends about what you need from them. It’s okay to ask for what you need. It is ok to ask them to let you take the lead on both bringing things up and on changing the subject when it feels like it is enough or too much.
  • If you do want to talk to family and friends in depth, do so -–it is important to seek support and to feel heard. Ask them to listen rather than respond, unless you are seeking advice, as otherwise you may wind up managing others’ reactions rather than your own.

Please share these resources with colleagues, friends and family.