Trauma in the Context of Mass Shootings
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This virtual special issue marks the third in this newly-initiated series from the Journal of Traumatic Stress, intended to offer resources to inform research and intervention in rapid response to traumatic events around the globe. The current virtual special issue brings together both new and classic papers to assist trauma specialists in their efforts to identify the factors that predict posttraumatic stress and recovery in the aftermath of mass shootings. The studies presented here involve participants exposed to a range of different events, from shootings on college campuses and sniper attacks on highways in the United States, to the mass gun attack on young persons on Utøya Island in Norway. The foci of these studies include individual sources of risk and resilience among those directly traumatized, such as anxiety sensitivity, life threat, physical injury, and guilt; as well as traumagenic and protective factors among those indirectly exposed, such as emotion regulation, identification with victims, and changes in cognition and emotion. Another important issue addressed by these articles is the impact of media exposure, both on those consuming and those producing those reports, research which confirms the importance of continuing to investigate and develop interventions for secondary traumatic stress, a source of PTSD that arises from trauma exposure that is indirect but nonetheless deeply impactful and real. Significantly, mass shootings, in which an assailant intentionally and maliciously perpetrates harm on a host of innocent victims, have the potential to impart moral injury and negatively impact the worldviews of an entire cohort of young persons, the radiating effects of which we may not yet have begun to realize. On the other side of the coin, a potential antidote to the corrosive effects of exposure to the horrors of mass shootings is the finding that participation in research itself is viewed by traumatized individuals as a way of paying forward to those who might be affected in future. Just as with the public outpourings of support and donations of goods, time, and blood we have seen in the aftermath of shootings and other disastrous events, there are many examples of altruism that can serve to preserve (or rekindle) faith in humankind.