What We Know and Don’t Know about How Mass Trauma Affects Mental Health

April 26, 2019

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

Science News

How does mass trauma affect mental health? Research offers some clues. One study found that mass shooting victims who had a previous trauma history were at increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. Other research suggests that physical closeness to a violent incident and emotional closeness to victims increase the risk of longer-term mental health issues. Most people who experience major trauma do not die by suicide, but exposure to violence may increase suicide risk. For more than a decade, research has sought to explain the transition from suicidal thoughts to behaviors. One theory proposes that people are more likely to act on suicidal thoughts when they see violence as normal, can tolerate high levels of pain, and have access to guns or other means. To help support those who have experienced mass trauma, experts recommend giving them a safe and supportive space to process their feelings. Some research suggests that fostering resilience and gratitude could also help protect survivors from developing mental health issues.

Spark Extra! Learn more about how to support survivors of traumatic events.