November 13, 2017

Purdue professor: People should voice emotions about mass shootings

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A Purdue professor leading a team researching the experiences of grief and loss says talking with people close to you can help sort out emotions in the wake of recent mass shootings.

Heather Servaty-Seib, a psychologist and professor of counseling psychology for the Department of Educational Studies, says people should share their thoughts and concerns with friends and family.

“We have to be able to be authentic as people and share when we’re feeling vulnerable about these massive shootings,” she says. “Talking about the incidents can help people find a sense of perspective and meaning as well as create community with others.”

“The best thing to do is talk. If you’re feeling the heaviness of these tragedies, it can make a difference to talk about them.”

For people feeling a heavier emotional load from the violent incidents, she suggests they look for positive counterpoints to reinforce their faith in society.

“When you keep hearing about these events with a large number of deaths, it can leave people questioning the nature of humanity in a way,” Servaty-Seib says. “Watch for positive moments and let them speak as strongly to you as these events that are so evil, so horrendous.”

The events impact not only for people directly connected, but society as a whole, she says.

People can take on feelings of grief from such incidents just as if their own family members are involved. She says someone’s sensitivity to the shootings depends upon their own feelings of empathy as well as any details of the incidents that resonate personally.

In dealing with these incidents, people tend to grab on to explanations that are not necessarily accurate or complete, opting for blaming easy stereotypes like mental illness, Servaty-Seib says. 

Writer: Brian L. Huchel, 765-494-2084, bhuchel@purdue.edu 

Source: Heather Servaty-Seib, 765-494-0837, servaty@purdue.edu

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