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Oct 09 2017
by Haley Hershenson

How We Can Resist Becoming Desensitized to Mass Shootings

By Haley Hershenson - Oct 09 2017
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When the news of a tragedy starts to spread we often first pay attention to the number of people that have been confirmed dead before anything else. When I first heard the news of the shooting in Las Vegas, I was overcome with feelings of sadness as I thought about not just the lives lost, but all of the people impacted, including those injured. I thought of the families destroyed as they struggle to find closure. I thought of the friends and co-workers whose lives have been dramatically changed forever. Like most of my peers, I was also left wondering, “Why does this keep happening?” 

I’ve noticed, as I listened to students in some of my classes announce how they refuse to talk about it, that our reactions aren’t the same as previous mass shootings. While each mass shooting that has happened in the past decade has been tragic, we aren’t as shocked as we used to be after they happen. As Emma Seng, a freshman at Smith College puts it, “I wasn’t surprised, as sad as that sounds, because it happens so often nowadays. It’s hard to be greatly impacted by things like this even though we should be.” It can feel surreal knowing that we’ve already lived through three of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. 

There are other perspectives on why people may become desensitized to such tragedies. Kate Cavallucci, a freshman at the State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz says, “It happens so often that it can be hard to spare the emotions or spare the humanity every time it happens and take the time to experience the anger and sadness that we should feel after something like this.” 

With a tragedy like this one, it can be especially hard to empathize with the victims when we struggle to understand why it happens in the first place. It becomes increasingly difficult to talk about, so it can be tempting to try and avoid the conversation. Perhaps it is easier to disengage from a conversation you’ve been a part of before. It’s frustrating to re-enter the conversation about a problem where there seems to be no clear solution in sight.

We shouldn't consider this to be normal, but it’s occurrence is not rare anymore. It happens so often now that you may feel an urge to ignore the news and avoid discussions surrounding gun violence. While you may feel guilty, it’s a way of responding to trauma.

There are ways, however, that we can actively try and shield ourselves from becoming desensitized to these kinds of occurrences.

1. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you feel initially. 

It is best not to ignore these emotions and to practice self-care.

2. Talk to your friends and family and seek support from those around you.

By allowing yourself to feel whatever emotions this kind of event might trigger and by sharing those emotions you are resisting becoming desensitized.

3. Turn your emotions into action.

Rather than avoiding feelings of devastation, frustration and anger, channel those feelings into empowering yourself to become educated on current gun control legislation and the barriers to reforms

It can be difficult to let every catastrophe affect you in a world where tragic stories are shared in the news more often than uplifting ones. Even with international news, when a tragedy happens in another country, it can take over our news outlets as well. It's hard not to become numb to these events, but they need to be talked about. We need to address why they shouldn't be happening in the first place and why they should't be reoccurring with increasing intensity. It's time we act critically and become informed on ways conversations can be turned into meaningful actions. 

Lead Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons 

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Haley Hershenson - SUNY New Paltz

Haley Hershenson is a freshman at SUNY New Paltz majoring in Early Childhood/Childhood Education with a concentration in English, and a minor in Deaf Studies. Haley loves basketball, coffee, and watching Greys Anatomy. Follow her on Instagram @Haleyhershenson

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