The long-term care for those affected by an active shooter or bomber may take a while. It is important to realize that delayed effects from the incident could occur immediately, or they could occur days, months, or even years later. In the first weeks, and possibly even months after the incident, victims and family members may need additional help. They may need:
- Help maintaining lawns, homes, gardens, or business
- Meals (video of someone delivering a meal)
- A 24-hour watch to care for emotional and spiritual needs
- Counselling provided or arranged
In the long and the short-term, church volunteers and leadership should also watch for warning signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. These signs can include:
- Reliving the trauma over and over
- Physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable
- Having trouble remembering the event.
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Loss of sex drive
- Outbursts of anger
- Obsessing on why they lived, while others died
- Feeling distanced from spouse or children
- Crying for no known reason. or uncontrollable crying
- Drinking, taking pain killers, or using drugs
- Antisocial behavior
- Dwelling on the incident
If you or someone that was present during the incident suffers from these effects, DO NOT ignore them.
The longer you allow them to go unchecked, the harder it might be to correct these issues. If signs of PTSD are seen, you and your aftercare team should:
- Seek out help from a mental health professional specializing in PTSD
- Seek out help from clergy
While I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, prayer should not delay mental health involvement; it should be done in conjunction with notifying a mental health professional.
While prayer is important, it is also important to note that you should not share any individual’s mental difficulties without their permission. It is fine to say they need prayer, but specific details should not be given. You should also realize that in many instances, due to the nature of the problem, many members of the clergy may not be equipped to handle the seriousness of the issues the victim faces. Clergy may refer you to some of these individuals to a PTSD specialist. For clergy members, they should realize (early on) if they are not equipped to help the individual. Clergy should NEVER delay getting professional help when signs of PTSD are seen.
The after-effects of an active shooter situation will likely have:
- Long term effects
- Short term effects
- Be intermittent
- Be constant
It will be a sprint in the beginning, it will be a marathon in the larger picture. For the Marathon, you should consider putting together a volunteer team that:
- Undertakes long-term monitoring
- Ensures long-term mental healthcare
- Meets the physical needs
- Will identify and arrange professional help for those who may be having issues
This team could prevent unnecessary suffering, and potentially even prevent a suicide. Our churches should have a commitment to these individuals because:
- This is the Christian thing to do!
- This is also the right and prudent thing to do!
In closing, I wanted to say that there will be changes to the blog in the near future. I will discuss these changes in tomorrow’s blog, and the reason we are making these changes. Until then, … Mark