The Emotional Toll of Mass Shootings

The Emotional Toll of Mass Shootings

Mass shootings are devasting. In this column, the NHF Social Work Working Group offers advice and support in making sense of the anger and emotions around these awful events.

Ask a Social Worker is a monthly column featuring questions from the community and answers from members of NHF’s Social Work Working Group. If you have questions for our social workers, send them to [email protected].

This month, the Working Group shares an important message about a serious issue plaguing the country.


To our Bleeding Disorders Community: 

This year has been devastating. Reports of mass violence and shootings have plagued the news and forced us to consider their likelihood in our daily lives. At the time of writing this, the U.S.  has experienced more than 300 mass shootings so far in 2022—an amount that’s truly hard to believe.

Although people are resilient (especially this community!) and often bounce back after difficult times, these events tend to interrupt our sense of routine and safety. While these incidents may not have affected you personally, the feelings that come with hearing about them can still weigh heavily on our hearts and minds. Even social workers with advanced training can become overwhelmed by the intensity of these tragic events.

Chronic illnesses such as bleeding disorders can already add a plethora of stressors to people’s lives; for example, navigating the risk of bleeds on a daily basis. It is important to keep in mind that people with bleeding disorders can experience a compounding effect from an isolated incident of trauma such as a mass shooting combined with the emotional and mental impact caused by living with a chronic condition. This could lead to being overly focused on the present or worried about the future, and constantly bringing up symptoms or concerns. Therefore, it is so important for patients, caregivers and others involved in their care to monitor for signs of mental health distress and to seek out support and help as needed.

It is also vital to recognize that not everyone processes trauma of this magnitude the same way or in the same time frame. Some may not express their feelings verbally or even directly. Some may not be able to speak about what they are feeling or explain how they’re processing their emotions. Some may become moodier, withdrawn or clingy. In all cases, patience and respect are key. When we are aware of others, we can then help them by looking out for any self-destructive or damaging behavior. 

We know of the strength and commitment that is found within this community. You have all overcome so much by either having a bleeding disorder yourself or caring for a loved one who has one. Many of you have built networks of support for yourselves and others. It is important to recognize and acknowledge that even when adversity comes our way (such as a mass shooting), you are not alone. Family, friends, organizations at the local, state and national levels, your hemophilia treatment center and your medical care team are all here for you. If you find that you need assistance or that the assistance you are receiving is not enough, do not hesitate to reach out. 

Lastly, please take care of yourself and your loved ones. Read on for some tips.

How to Support Yourself During Moments of Stress

  • Do your best to drink plenty of water, eat regularly, and get enough sleep and exercise.
  • Reach out to other adult relatives, friends or members of the community to talk or support each other.
  • Avoid making any unnecessary life-altering decisions during times of great stress.
  • Give yourself a break. Take time to rest and do things that you like to do.
  • Reach out to a social worker or mental health professional to help process your feelings and emotions.

How to Support a Child or Family Member in Stressful Situations

  • Try to keep routines as normal as possible. Kids gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
  • Limit exposure to television and the news.
  • Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they can handle developmentally.
  • Listen to kids’ fears and concerns.
  • Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be, but that there are people who do bad things.
  • Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.
  • Seek professional help if you feel it is necessary, including from your HTC social workers.