Supporting Ourselves and Each Other After Tragedy


Dear Students, Colleagues and Community Members:

Saturday’s beautiful graduation day closed with the news of a horrific mass shooting in Buffalo, NY. While hate-fueled violence has had an insidious presence in our lives, this event has hit us closer to home. As therapists, we are concerned for your psychological well-being, the risk of stigma caused or reinforced by sensationalized media and the continued struggle for the right to live free of violence and fear based on your identity. 

Many of you may have close connections with those lost in this tragedy. Black and brown students may feel disillusionment or fear leaving your home as a result of this. We urge you to carefully consider the news you consume, particularly photo and video coverage that can present a risk of not only trauma, but desensitization. We all have different ways of coping, but we ask you to consider connecting with others at this time. The last several years have created distance - physically and emotionally - and most of us have struggled as a result. Let this not be another event that reinforces distance. Please call our office for referrals or services as needed. 

We have started to see many references to the perpetrator’s mental health. Based on the information available, and consistent with research, hate-filled ideology caused this person to commit this act, not mental illness. Contextual factors, not diagnosis, have been cited as playing a much bigger role in someone’s risk of behaving violently. To be certain, we encourage our community members to report concerns about behavior. However, we ask you to suspend judgment about the cause of the behavior and refer your concerns to those responsible for threat assessment and behavior intervention.

We have all been exposed to biased jokes, stereotypes and ideological statements that may be perceived as “harmless”. We ask our community members to be attentive to the normalization and sometimes validation that can come from our laughter or our silence. It is easy to fall into the cynical acceptance of these events as the status quo - “it is what it is”. As mental health practitioners, we have a unique opportunity to intimately learn about the worlds of so many people we might never otherwise encounter. In doing so, it allows us to affirm the humanity and complexity of our fellow human beings, and to reject overt generalizations and stereotypes. We have the good fortune of having hope for our future, and we have faith that you will discover it as well. Seek your community - for support or to offer comfort - none of us should have to do this alone. 

Helpful links:
Mass shootings

Understanding race-related trauma:
Self-care for people of color after racial trauma
Educating white americans of racism
Racial trauma recovery

10 tips for coping with disaster
A Loving Reminder: When The News Is Difficult (Therapy For Black Girls)