It is important to balance the public's right to know with an understanding of the impact of repeated and graphic details and images reported by the media in response to the shootings in Aurora, Colo. Those previously exposed to trauma, and children and teens, are particularly vulnerable to experiencing or re-experiencing fear, helplessness, stress, anxiety and confusion. Stories have been running continuously on all networks, with little thought to the impact on children riveted by pictures of wounded children and bloodied bodies.
The sense of "this could happen to us" was clearly evident as a co-worker accidently increased the volume on the Aurora 911 call, and those of us in earshot poured out of our offices thinking it was a local police alert. It is extremely important that we set limits to our own exposure and that of our children. Although no one is immune to disaster and tragedy, children and teens need the messages that these incidents are infrequent, and that as responsible parents we will do everything in our power to ensure their safety.
We want to reach out to our local media outlets to partner with them about "safe messaging." As 2-1-1 and crisis specialists, we can offer resources to help those who may be suffering anxiety/panic from past traumatic events that have resurfaced as a result of watching these reports. We expect and are prepared to handle an increase in calls from those "triggered" by these events.
Additionally, the Disaster Distress Helpline is available for support: Call us 24/7 toll free at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746; calls and texts are answered by trained, caring counselors from call centers across the United States.
Vicki Hummer and Debra Harris