Orlando, Florida woke up Sunday morning to horrific news. There was a mass shooting at a nightclub killing 50 people. Identified gunman, Omar Marteen, opened fire at Pulse Club in the early hours on Sunday filling the streets of downtown Orlando with terror. People were hiding, fleeing and rescued from the club in despair. Categorized as the “Worst Mass Shooting in US history,” this tragedy has the entire country shaken up. Collective trauma is a traumatic psychological effect shared by a large group of people and can be transmitted across communities, such as wars, terrorism, natural disasters and mass shootings. Mass shootings such as the Orlando shooting, can affect an entire community and society in experiencing trauma symptoms such as excessive fear, anxiety, sadness and fear. When we think of trauma, we tend to concentrate on the individuals directly affected in the traumatic event. However the community does go through collective pain and collective traumatic stress. People in the community will experience similar trauma symptoms as direct victims of the trauma. Although research states that only 12-15 percent of people affected from a mass shooting tragedy will develop post traumatic stress disorder, it does not mean we as a community and individual will not experience trauma reactions. As a shattered community we will express hopelessness, extreme anger, fear and possible extreme decision-making. As a community it is important to heal together. Dealing with collective trauma means dealing with collective healing.

Here are 3 Ways We can Help our Community Deal with Collective Trauma:

  1. Recognize that trauma reactions are normal. Understanding our emotions like fear, sadness, and even anger towards the traumatic event allows us to normalize as a community and empowers unity. Like individuals, a community goes through a grieving process. Recognizing the diversity of that grieving process promotes healthy healing.
  2. Restoring harmony in the community. There is power when a community becomes proactive and involved. During the aftermath of a tragedy, you see how humanity can come together and overlook any previous differences. For a moment, social differences such as religious beliefs, race or political preferences are completely forgotten. Instead humanity is enhanced and healing begins as a community. Hope and faith begins to be restored, the moment we see members in our communities share their stories, donate blood and volunteer.
  3. Promoting mental health. There is no shame in seeking professional help. However we can promote mental health in many ways. Connecting with friends and families, support groups, or neighbors to talk about our thoughts and feelings will enhance overall mental health. As mentioned before, not everyone will develop post traumatic stress disorder, but there is huge power when people come together and share their experiences. We can heal collectively as long as we know how to heal individually.

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Author: Mayeling Angelastro, MA, CPP is an Orlando Winter Park Bilingual (Espanol) Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern providing help to couples, families, couples, children and teenagers with offices in Winter Park and East Orlando.  She is a Certified Child Parent Psychotherapist (CPP) helping to heal children from the trauma of going into Foster Care and reestablishing their attachment to their new families. Contact May for a Complimentary 15 Minute Phone Call (407) 248-0030!