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Experts say mental health often overlooked after tragedies

Experts say mental health after tragedy often gets overlooked, and the trauma from a mass shooting can impact a community for years or even a lifetime. (CBS News file image)

Experts say mental health after tragedy often gets overlooked, and the trauma from a mass shooting can impact a community for years or even a lifetime.

"Mental health is a condition like any other and it needs to be treated as such," said Greg Hansch, public policy director for National Alliance on Mental Illness, Texas Affiliate.

Hansch says people should pay attention to changes in their mental health, especially after tragedies, like the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs.

"We don't do the greatest job as a society in terms of recognizing that and providing access to the necessary treatments and services," Hansch said.

He says the short-term symptoms, which can include difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, anxiety, and depression, are also often overlooked.

St. Edward’s University psychology professor Dr. Tomas Yufik says the path to recovery is different for everyone.

"Some of the research suggests that 30-40 percent of individuals, who are direct victims of an event like this, can develop post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD)," Yufik said.

Hansch says even after grief counselors are gone, it’s important for people affected by tragedies, like mass shootings, to know what resources are available to them.

"They can contact their local NAMI affiliate organization. We have education classes. We have support groups, and we do advocacy as well as offer referrals to people," Hansch says.

Other mental health resources include the Disaster Distress helpline and your local mental health authority.

"Intervention in cases like this can make an enormous difference in terms of long term prognosis,” Yufik said.

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