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Coping with Incidents of Mass Violence

Monday, June 13, 2016
Warning Signs to look for and What to do

Contact:  Phyllis Jones: (202) 673.1937  desk   (202) 631-3077 mobile
[email protected]

Washington, DC- In the immediate aftermath of a mass violence like the Orlando Club incident, it is common to experience feelings of anxiety, helplessness and fear—even for those with no personal connection to the tragedy.  Other signs of emotional distress may include:

  •  Trouble sleeping
  •  Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  •  Feeling helpless or hopeless
  •  Worrying a lot of the time; feeling guilty but not sure why
  •  Feeling like you have to keep busy
  •  Excessive smoking, drinking, or using drugs (including prescription medication)

Learn more about warning signs and risk factors for emotional distress related to incidents of mass violence and other disasters.

“Because these types of disasters are unpredictable and can happen anywhere without warning, it’s normal for people to experience emotional distress,” said Tanya A. Royster, MD, Director of the Department of Behavioral Health. “It’s important to pay attention to your physical and mental health, take steps to relieve stress, and know when to get help.”


  • Limit exposure to graphic news stories
  • Get accurate, timely information from reliable sources
  • Maintain a normal daily routine, if possible
  • Exercise, eat well and rest
  • Stay active – physically and mentally
  • Stay in touch with family and friends
  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Share your concerns with others

Most people who experience emotional distress related to mass violence are able to recover quickly, but others may need additional support to move forward on the path of recovery.  


  • Seek professional help if tragedy-related emotional or psychological problems persist or become severe. 
  • You may want to talk to your doctor or a counselor if stress is causing you to experience physical symptoms or worsening of a chronic medical condition.
  •  Finally, seek professional help if you find yourself “treating” your stress by misuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or by engaging in other unhealthy behaviors.

If you would like to talk with a mental health counselor, call the 24/7 Access Helpline at 1-888-7WE-HELP or 1-888-793-4357.  Go to to learn about available mental health services.