Stress, Secondary Trauma, affect of violence in the news

“If it bleeds it leads” –but may also lead to Secondary Traumatic Stress for Individuals and Families


Daily reports of violent acts, including police and video footage of shootings and killings, have left many people feeling angry, afraid and worried. Many African Americans and those in other minority communities have vicariously identified with the victims in several of these tragedies. This personal identification has led to feelings of hopelessness, shock and fear. A great number of people from various ethnic and racial backgrounds have cried out for justice, positive change and peace. And others have spoken out on social media under #BlackLivesMatter. Some have responded with #AllLivesMatter or #BlueLivesMatter. In the midst of all the controversy, what is evident is the deeply personal and systemic emotional pain. Even though many of us may not be directly involved in these horrific events and are just hearing about them and/or watching and re-watching them on TV or other media, we are emotionally affected. And some people experience more severe emotions than others. These common distressful reactions to hearing about traumatic events and the effects of watching horrific acts can often lead to Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS).

What is Secondary Traumatic Stress? Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional distress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another. Its symptoms mimic those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Accordingly, individuals affected by secondary stress may find themselves re-experiencing personal trauma or notice an increase in arousal and avoidance reactions related to the indirect trauma exposure. They may also experience changes in memory and perception; alterations in their sense of self-efficacy, a depletion of personal resources, and disruption in their perceptions of safety, trust, and independence. [1]
What are some of the symptoms? This is a partial list:
  • Anger
  • Hopelessness
  • Insomnia
  • Avoidance
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Poor Concentration
  • Aggression
Who Suffers? Everyone is at risk. Anyone who reads, watches the news or overhears conversations is vulnerable to STS. Couples and families and whole communities can be adversely affected. However, children, adolescents, parents and those in helping professions may be at greater risk. Risk appears to be greater among women and among individuals who are highly empathetic by nature or have unresolved personal trauma.
What are some solutions?
  • Increase Awareness of STS
  • Exercise and Good Nutrition
  • Stay Connected-prioritize personal relationships
  • Make a Wellness Plan
  • Psychotherapy
  • Practice good self-care
  • Create and/or participate in an accountability buddy system
We are all in this together. Ask for help when needed. Take periodic breaks from media. Take time to meditate. Nourish your personal relationships, your body and mind. Make personal wellness a priority.
“Love yourself, accept yourself, forgive yourself, and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.” ~Dr. Leo Buscaglia

Lisa Locke

I am the author of the book Blockbuster Love: Lessons from the Movies on How to Create Lasting Love. In addition to being an author and artist, I am also a psychotherapist with a private practice in Burbank, CA. I am passionate about helping couples and individuals build strong healthy relationships and would welcome the opportunity to help you too. To schedule an appointment call 818-806-9170.
Posted in Stress.