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Encore: The impact gun violence is having on society's mental health


Even as the details continue to emerge from East Lansing, Mich., we're reminded that the shooting there took place on the eve of the anniversary of another mass shooting. Five years ago today, a gunman took the lives of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla., and wounded 17 more.


These cycles of gun violence have an impact on mental health, and that's true far beyond the communities where shootings have happened.


ERIKA FELIX: You can liken these things to, like, a ripple in a pond, where it reverberates out beyond the direct impact. You can see the concentric circles rippling out from that.

CHANG: Erika Felix teaches psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Last month, she spoke with our colleague Ari Shapiro about the psychological toll of shootings.


FELIX: Whether we witness it on the news or live in the community or we were there on-site, you can have a significant elevation in emotions of anxiety, worry, problems with sleeping.

ARI SHAPIRO: Even if you're not in the community, even if you don't know the people affected.

FELIX: Yes. When we're watching the news, we feel the distress. We have this empathy component of ourselves as human beings. But for some people, especially who experienced the most losses, there is an increased potential for post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

SHAPIRO: Obviously, the ideal solution would be to end gun violence. But what specific steps can you suggest people take to reduce some of these negative psychological consequences?

FELIX: Yes. In the immediate aftermath, one of the important things is to get social support. We had a mass-murder tragedy affect our community...

SHAPIRO: In Santa Barbara.

FELIX: ...In Santa Barbara in 2014. So what people found most helpful was the activities where they came together as a community, that could even just be potluck and just be around other people who are experiencing similar things.

SHAPIRO: That's so interesting to me that a vigil, for example, is not just a show of solidarity or a statement of community. It's actually healing.

FELIX: It is. And actually, when I surveyed our students at UCSB following the mass-murder tragedy, that was one of the things they found most helpful, and it was the most widely attended. All of that stuff, students rated as really helpful in their coping in the immediate aftermath.

SUMMERS: That was psychology professor Erika Felix, speaking with our colleague Ari Shapiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.