Dealing with the Psychological Damage of Police Shootings

Dealing with the Psychological Damage of Police Shootings

If you watch the news, the reports of police shootings can intensify anxiety for anyone who watches them.

If you watch the news, the reports of police shootings could intensify anxiety for anyone including people already suffering with anxiety attacks. For parents who have a child with autism, it’s stressful to learn of the police shooting of a group home counselor helping a suicidal autistic young adult. According to an article by theguardian.com, a growing number of people need anxiety counseling as police violence gets caught on tape. Experts say violence against people by or toward law enforcement is often a trigger for people already suffering with grief and loss. High-profile police killings traumatize people who want to associate law enforcement with safety and security. To combat the psychological damage of police violence, consider meeting with a professional therapist as well as working on issues at home.

Turn Off the Television

One way to reduce anxiety is to sleep without the television on. People who leave on violent movies and news reports often experience anxiety and nightmares. If you feel an anxiety attack coming on, turn off the media sources during the day. Some signs of an anxiety attack include a sudden increase in pulse rate, shallow and quick breathing as if you are running a marathon, feeling faint and sweating.

Talk to a Trained Therapist

Although some people like to talk to friends, co-workers and neighbors about the police shootings, it’s sometimes counterproductive. Instead of experiencing a collective trauma, sit down with a trained professional to sort out your feelings. Oftentimes people who lost a loved one, went through a scary situation such as being held at gunpoint or experienced rape, feel shame and confusing feelings when watching the news.

Control What you See and Hear

If you need to stay informed about the news for your profession or other reason, control what you see and hear. Avoid watching violent images. Instead, listen to the news without watching. Ask a loved one to screen an article or program before you watch it. Read the newspaper online but minimize the graphic photos.

Practicing Deep Breathing

The best defense against a mental attack is preparation and knowledge. You can receive anxiety counseling for a number of issues. When you feel an anxiety attack coming on, practice deep breathing exercises. Although there are different deep breathing methods, a simple way to relieve stress is to breathe through your nose, exhale through your mouth and continue breathing slowly to decrease your heart rate. Also, immediately change what you are doing. Some people come up with a “pattern interrupter” or dynamic activity to snap out of one mood and adopt an entirely different attitude. Pay attention to your body posture as well. If you feel anxiety and sadness, force yourself to smile or act silly to bring about other emotions.

If you feel upset by the news, realize you are not alone. Hearing about violence or seeing graphic images often reminds people of their own trauma. Consider working with a professional who specializes in grief counseling and anxiety counseling. Most people have layers of memories and experiences they need to work through. Find creative ways to express your emotions such as writing and drawing. Many survivors of abuse learn to establish better personal boundaries with the help of a therapist. For many people, it's refreshing to talk to someone in a confidential setting where there is no judgement or criticism.

At Mary Shull Counseling, we provide anxiety counseling as well as help for dealing with grief and sexual abuse. Mary Shull is a professional therapist who helps clients break a cycle of exhaustion stemming from anxiety. For more information on dealing with stress related to the news and police shootings, please contact us.

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