How to Talk to Your Child About Mass Shootings

June 08, 2021

A mass shooting topped the national newscast in March, nearly a year to the day after the country shut down because of COVID-19. Then there was another. And another.

News of mass shootings took a backseat to the pandemic despite there being 610 mass shootings in 2020 according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. It was also a record year for gun violence deaths with nearly 20,000 people killed.

Through May 15 of 2021, there have been 178 mass shootings resulting in 206 deaths. There is no clear definition of a mass shooting other than incidents involving several victims of gun-related violence.

Mass shootings are traumatizing, especially for children and adolescents when safe spaces like schools and churches are the settings. Kids need us to make them feel safe but that’s hard to do when we may not feel safe ourselves.

Woman Mass Shootings

Manage Your Distress First

You really want to help your kids cope with news of the latest mass shooting, but you can’t help anyone until you help yourself.

Realize that you are feeling a wide range of emotions and that’s normal. We all deal with trauma differently. Feelings can include anger, fear, grief, numbness, shock, sorrow, and others.

You can help yourself by:

  • Talking about it — Get the support you need from people willing to listen to your concerns. This could be a friend, family member, or a professional.
  • Seeking balance — Remember there is good in the world and grab hold of that. It can help your perspective when things look bleak.
  • Taking breaks — Don’t overexpose yourself to information about what happened. It’s ok to take pauses from consuming images, news, and analysis.
  • Honoring your feelings — You may not be a victim of a traumatic event like a mass shooting, but it affects you. Recognize and respect how it makes you feel.
  • Caring for yourself — If you eat well, exercise, and avoid drugs and alcohol, you will be better able to cope with trauma. Use relaxation techniques like meditation to help you sleep.
  • Being productive — Find some way to help those affected. It can help empower you when so many feel powerless.

Young Girl Mass Shooting

Helping Your Kids

Parents and guardians are the first people kids will turn to when they need to feel safe. It doesn’t matter how old children are. You will always be the person who helps them make sense of the world.

It starts with talking. What you say and how you say it depends on their age. But more than anything, they need to know you’re listening.

You may need to start the conversation. That lets them know you care about how they are coping. Talk when you’re in the car together, at bedtime, or dinner. Listen to them and don’t interrupt. Let them say their piece before you respond. Gently correct any misinformation they have, but don’t put down those with different opinions. Let them know it’s OK to disagree while being respectful. Remind them that schools, churches, and other places they go to always tries to keep them safe. Also remind them that you are there to keep them safe and supported.

Father Son Mass Shootings

Other Ways to Help

  • Keep home a safe place — It’s where all kids go to feel secure. Keep the outside world and its stressors, outside the home.
  • Watch them — Look out for signs of anxiety, fear, or stress. They may lose their appetite, have trouble sleeping, or lose their concentration. Encourage them to identify what they’re feeling and help them work through those feelings.
  • Take breaks — They may be very curious about what happened and want to know more but know when to turn off the news. Make sure to talk with them about what they have seen, heard, or read.
  • Watch what you say — Not just you, but the other conversations by adults in the house. Your kids are always listening, and if they don’t understand something, they might draw their own conclusions which could make things worse.
  • Check in often — Have conversations to gauge their mood and see how they are coping with the situation. Actively listen.

Professional Help Is Here

AltaMed wants you to know you don’t have to do this alone. Our Behavioral Health teams in Los Angeles and Orange County are staffed with licensed clinical social workers who speak English and Spanish. All are trained to help you cope with life stressors and get you through a rough time.

We offer short-term therapy to help with any challenge and can link you to mental health services if you need long-term therapy, no matter what age.

To learn more about our services, call us today at (855) 425-1777.

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Grief, Sadness, and Your Mental Health 

June 05, 2020

California has recently announced plans to safely reopen businesses, schools, stores, and churches. However, it will still be a long time before we recover from the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if we’ve stayed healthy, many of us are dealing with great uncertainty and have suffered great losses – the death of a loved one, losing a job, or having to give up a lifestyle we loved. And for many of us, the current state of our country, the treatment of its Black citizens, and the differences in health care access for Latino and Black communities during this crisis has added to what is already a difficult and frightening situation. With all of these factors, many of us may be experiencing sadness and grief. Over time, these painful emotions can come to the surface and affect our ability to live a normal life.

So, how do we manage and transition into a healthy state of mind? Learning how to recognize these emotions and understand what purpose they serve can help you get through it.

A Healthy Life Depends on a Healthy Mind

Section 1

Your mental health matters and must be a priority in your life: it’s essential to acknowledge that taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health.

Mental health issues don’t just make us feel bad, emotionally. They can lead to physical problems, such as fatigue, insomnia, headaches, nausea, pain, and even lasting issues like high blood pressure. While you may want to run away from, bury, or ignore painful emotions, acknowledging them and making an effort to deal with them can make a huge difference in recovering a healthy balanced life.

Get to Know the Difference Between Grief and Sadness

Section 2

We all know how it feels to be sad – sadness is a very natural emotion, and it is usually in response to some event in our lives. Believe it or not, feeling sad can be positive. Sadness can help us heal while we are going through difficult times. Unfortunately, if sadness lasts for too long, it can lead to depression.

Like sadness, grief is a natural reaction to the loss of someone or something significant to us. But unlike sadness, grief isn’t one particular feeling: grief can make you feel sad, angry, powerless, bitter, anxious, or even numb. Grief can even take over your brain and lead to thoughts that can make you feel uncomfortable. Too much grief can be overwhelming, and it can lead to depression or physical problems.

How to Start Healing

Section 3

Grieving is an individual process, and it can take some time before you feel like you’re back to normal. While grieving, there are a few things you can do to help yourself and recover:

Taking care of your physical health will reflect on your emotions: Adding simple, healthy habits such as drinking more water, eating healthier, working out, or trying to get more sleep at night can have a positive effect on your mood.

Try to live your life: it’s important to remember the things you used to do, and what made you happy. Even if you don’t feel good, going for a walk, reading a good book, or watching your favorite movie may bring you some joy. Allow yourself to be happy.

Find support from your family and friends: even though grieving is a personal process, seek understanding and companionship from someone close to you, especially if you are feeling lonely. Don’t be afraid of sharing your feelings and connecting with others.

Be patient with the process: There’s no time-table for grief. For some people, grief can last a long time, especially if it is due to the death of someone close. In fact, you may never get completely over it: hearing a song or remembering the anniversary of an event can make your grief more intense, even if you thought you were over it. But over time, the pain lessens. It may take years before the pain of grief goes away completely.

Go to therapy: Sometimes, grief can affect your ability to live a healthy life, and you may need extra support from a professional. Talk to your doctor or find a therapist if:

  • Your grief prevents you from doing normal, daily activities, such as going to work, keeping your house in order, or caring for yourself
  • You socially withdraw from people in your life
  • You feel like life isn’t worth living
  • You think about hurting yourself

A therapist can help you deal with your emotions and teach you ways to cope until you are feeling better.

Help is Always Available

Section 4

If you are having a hard time with your grief, you don’t know how to cope with sadness, or you feel like you may be depressed, we can help. Reach out to our Behavioral Health team at (855) 425-1777. We are here for you, and we want you to grow healthy in body, mind, and spirit.

If you are having suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

Putting a Stop to Domestic Violence

February 03, 2021

The pandemic has affected countless lives beyond the millions who have been infected with the virus. Millions of others have been trapped with abusers by stay-at-home orders meant to stop the spread of the disease.

Abusers, who often isolate their victims, now have an easier time of terrorizing those close to them emotionally, physically, and sexually.

Fear and financial dependence prevent the majority of victims from seeking help. As a result, injuries go untreated, stress builds up, psychological wounds get deeper, and the results can be death by either homicide or suicide.

Identifying the Problem

Family domestic Violence

Violence was first listed as a health issue priority by the United States Surgeon General in 1979. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the National Institute of Justice conducted the National Violence Against Women Survey from 1995 to 1996. It was the first real collection of data on intimate partner violence (IPV).

IPV refers to behavior in any intimate relationship that causes physical, sexual, or psychological harm to those in the relationship.

It includes:

  • Physical — hitting, slapping, kicking, beating
  • Sexual — forced sexual intercourse or other coerced sexual activity
  • Psychological — insults, intimidation, threats, destroying property, humiliation, stalking
  • Isolation — isolating someone from family and friends; keeping them from work or school; restricting access to money or medical care, monitoring movements

By the Numbers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts an ongoing National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey that gathers data on domestic and intimate partner violence.

According to the CDC’s survey:

  • 1 in 5 women — and 1 in 7 men — report experiencing severe physical violence from an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 5 women — and 1 in 12 men — have experienced violent sexual contact by an intimate partner.
  • 10% of women — and 2% of men — report having been stalked by an intimate partner.
  • 43 million women — and 38 million men — experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The Consequences

Yelling Domestic Violence

Survivors of IPV face a host of health issues with physical injuries being most common. About 35% of women and 11% of men who survive IPV experience some physical injury related to their abuse. Death is also a result. Crime statistics show that in one of five cases an intimate partner killed the victim. More than half of all female homicide victims are killed by current or past male partners.

IPV survivors are also at risk for other chronic conditions that the:

Survivors also tend to suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They face a higher risk for addictive behaviors like smoking, binge drinking, and risky sexual activity.

Recognizing Domestic Violence

It can be hard to speak up for someone you think is being abused. We have a tendency to make excuses for why things are a certain way, or we’re worried we’ll be told to, “mind our own business.” But you might be the difference between life and death for someone who is being abused.

You should look for:

  • Excuses for injuries
  • Personality changes, especially around their partner
  • Wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses at night
  • Skipping work, school, or gatherings for no real reason
  • Always checking in with their partner
  • Wanting to please their partner
  • Never having money

If you suspect someone is being abused, you should:

  • Ask if they’re OK
  • Tell them why you’re worried and be specific
  • Listen
  • Let them know you’re there for them
  • Offer help
  • Respect their choices
  • Don’t tell them what they should do

We’re Here for You

Hand Domestic Violence

AltaMed is available to help you find resources so you can make a plan to leave an abusive relationship. Our Behavioral Health Services are staffed with licensed clinical social workers who speak English and Spanish and are trained to help you through whatever life puts in your way. You don’t have to go through it alone. To learn more about our services, call (855) 425-1777.