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Mass Violence/Community Violence

While warnings are possible before some kinds of disasters, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, they are generally impossible before incidents of mass violence. Coupled with the fact that people in these incidents may get injured and see others injured or killed, incidents of violence may lead to a deep sense of loss of control, fear, and anxiety in situations in which there is no actual risk. This may be true even for people who were not directly involved, but who lived in the same area or heard or read about the incident in the news.

Incidents of mass violence and community violence, which include terrorist attacks, may be expressions of prejudice and negative feelings toward people of particular nationalities, religions, races, ethnic or cultural groups, or sexual orientations. They may also be less targeted—cases in which an individual attacks people around him or her for reasons other than prejudice. Regardless, because these incidents can damage trust, they can rend the fabric of communities and belief in the basic goodness of others.

On the other hand, communities often grow stronger through response and recovery following incidents of mass violence and community violence. As described in an issue of The Dialogue about disaster memorials, memorials to honor lives lost in incidents of mass violence have played an important role in healing for communities across the country. In addition to memorials, communities may initiate programs and other efforts to help their members cope with their reactions to incidents of violence, tap into their sources of strength, and build resilience over the long term.

This installment of the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series features materials for the public, college students, parents and other caregivers, managers, school personnel, and responders on these topics:

  • Common reactions to incidents of mass violence, community violence, and terrorism, and tips for coping with these reactions
  • Common reactions in children and adolescents after incidents of violence and terrorism, and ways to help them cope and recover
  • Signs of the need for professional mental health support
  • Trauma, traumatic stress, posttraumatic stress disorder, and acute stress disorder
  • Resilience building
  • Incidents of workplace violence, and dealing with and recovering from these incidents

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