After mass shootings, the loss felt by marginalized groups already facing discrimination is compounded. Some public health experts say the risk for mental health issues is greater for these groups — communities of color and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community among them.
The trauma is especially acute when the shootings happen at schools, churches, clubs or other places that previously served as pillars of those communities — welcoming and accepting spaces that are difficult to replace due to a lack of resources or the sociological and historical impact they have had.
“Folks from marginalized communities are already dealing with the burden of … discrimination and racism … and the emotional toll that they take,” said Dr. Sarah Lowe, a professor with the Yale School of Public Health and a clinical psychologist who has researched the long-term mental health consequences of mass shootings and other traumatic events. “All these other stressors can not only increase risk for mental health problems following a mass shooting, but they also increase risk for further loss of resources.”
As a result, there is the potential for members of such marginalized communities to leave or for the community itself to shut down, said Alan Wolfelt, a grief counselor and educator at the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“That is why it is vital to support these communities, acknowledge their grief openly and honestly, and then help them rebuild their community in terms of meaning and purpose while realizing they have been totally transformed,” said Wofelt, who provides mental health services and education for individuals and communities that have experienced loss.
Read more at AP.org.