How a Psychologist Deals With All of the Overwhelming Tragedy in the News

Updated 05/02/19
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Tragic events like last night's Las Vegas shooting tend to demand a certain level of action on our parts; it's simply not enough to offer our thoughts and prayers to the world. With that said, being mindful of your mental health and practicing self-care are also important. Social media puts the 24-hour news cycle into the palms of our hands, meaning we're constantly bombarded with all the negative events unfolding across the globe.

As Teen Vogue reports, psychologists have long been concerned about how this perpetual violence weighs on our psyches. Near-constant exposure to human tragedy is actually linked with a sense of malaise about the world in general, explains University of Texas at San Antonio professor Mary McNaughton-Cassill, who is a leading researcher on the connection between media consumption and stress. This isn't to say that we should stop trying to lead informed lives, but we can and should equip ourselves with the tools necessary to cope with the resulting psychological stress.

"The first thing I would recommend is to acknowledge that a tragic event happened and that it's okay to have feelings about it," Stephanie Dowd, a clinical psychologist in the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Center of the Child Mind Institute, told Teen Vogue. "Express your feelings and thoughts about this event with people you love and trust." She also notes that your predisposition to mental health issues like anxiety and depression should be taken into consideration. "There's a higher risk factor for anxiety [and related issues] if [a person has] had a traumatic experience in their background," she adds.

"Be aware of your own personal risk factor."

In addition to acknowledging your feelings about the event, Dowd suggests finding news sources with less graphic imagery and even taking a break from apps like Twitter, which can seemingly magnify the worry and fear surrounding an event. Rather, "reading a few reputable news organizations, getting the information, and then moving on is the right way to go."

Finally, Dowd cautions against trying to make logical sense of the violence in an effort to digest it. "Sometimes, especially when people are feeling very anxious or confused about an attack like this, it's easy to ask 'why?'" she explains. "It's important to note that you won't get an answer. A lot of these attacks don't make sense. The terrorist worldview doesn't align to our own world. Stop asking the question why, and tolerate the unknown."

Head over to Teen Vogue for more from Dowd, and if you're looking to take action, read up on how to help the victims of the Las Vegas shooting next.

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