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'Epidemic of gun violence': Dane Co. board supervisor calls for trauma-informed response

Dane Co. board supervisor calls for trauma-informed response
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Dane Co. board supervisor calls for trauma-informed response

MADISON, Wis. - A Dane County board supervisor is calling for a trauma-informed response to be part of the conversation following recent mass shootings around the country and a shooting in Madison in June.

District 6 Supervisor Yogesh Chawla posted on his blog that he witnessed the shooting following the Shake the Lake fireworks show earlier this summer along with his wife and daughter. He said he feels having a trauma-informed response is not discussed enough.

"There's an expectation from the public and from the media that these communities are going to automatically be resilient and automatically bounce back from these events, but there's some really deep underlying trauma that happens," Chawla said.

Following the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, he said there's an "epidemic of gun violence" around the country. The aftermath can affect people's lives because the violence is happening in spaces that are supposed to be sacred make people feel safe, such as schools, places of worship, community gatherings and festivals.

With that in mind, he said public officials need to ask questions.

"Three weeks after, three months after, how are you still affected by this? What resources do you need?" Chawla said.

Dr. Lisa Baker, a psychologist at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital, said the recent mass shootings can have a deeper impact than a shooting like the one at Shake the Lake because they were targeted at specific groups from a place of hate, racism and bigotry.

"It brings ripple effects across our society of fear, especially from individuals from groups who are more targeted than others," Baker said.

Psychological science has shown the effects of social contagion, the spread of certain ideas and behaviors among people and groups, she explained.

She said people can have a range of responses to mass shootings, including fear, anxiety, and compassion for people who are affected.

"When people relate to or see themselves like the victims because of some characteristics or background or because they're in a targeted group, we're more likely to see secondary trauma symptoms," she explained.

Having a history of trauma and proximity to the incident can also be factors of secondary trauma.

Baker recommends that anyone who starts to lose their sense of safety and control not isolate themselves and instead, spend time talking to friends and family.

Taking breaks from media and images of shooting can also be an important part of the process, she said.

"We can start to watch more and more media, trying to make sense of something that feels senseless like this kind of violence and hatred. Being informed can be helpful, but when we are overly consuming of this information, of these images, it can actually make symptoms worse," Baker said.

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