Whilst I fully admit that the examples and real-world situations featured in this psychology podcast episode are US-focused, this is still a fascinating episode for everyone all over the world. Since as the number of mass shootings and other forms of mass violence becomes more common, we’re seeing people experiencing Mass Violence Fatigue. Leading us to question what is this and why this is important for psychologists to understand. If you enjoy the clinical and forensic psychology between violence then you’ll like today’s episode.
Today’s psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by Today’s episode has been sponsored by Forensic Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Why Am I Talking about Desensation To Mass Violence?
I live in the United Kingdom and the worse mass violence events me as a 22-year-old man can remember is the Plymouth mass-shooting in 2021. That was the UK’s worse mass shooting in 11 years and the mass-shooting before that one resulted in the UK overnight changing its gun laws making it very hard to have a gun and gun access in the UK extremely limited. I don’t even know how I go about getting a legal gun, I don’t think I could and I’m more than happy with that.
Another mass violence event I remember is the Manchester Arena bombing in 2015 that killed tens and injured many more, and I was also alive for the London Bombings of the early 2000s but I don’t personally remember that.
Counter those three mass violence events (and I admit I might have missed two or three) with the assessment of the USA’s mass shooting reports that Sky News put in Late December 2022 and the US situation is very, very different. In 2022, over 20,000 children died in mass shootings, it was more common to have a day with a mass shooting than not and mass shootings are basically normalised in the USA.
And as a UK person writing this post, I can remember when me, my parents and my friends whenever we encountered a news report of a mass shooting in America we were shocked, surprised and we had a reaction to it.
Nowadays, a few weeks ago, we watched a report of a mass shooting and we honestly had no reaction beyond the normal “that’s a shame. That shouldn’t have happened. Why does this keep happening? Those children never deserved to die,”
That is the extent of the reaction nowadays because everyone in the UK and I imagine everyone outside the USA knows these mass shootings will never stop, change and people (including children) will keep dying.
Anyway that isn’t the point of the podcast episode, my point is myself and my family alone used to have a strong emotional reaction to a mass shooting, but now me, my family and other people don’t.
This honestly doesn’t make me and my family bad people because we aren’t in the country where the mass shootings are happening for starters, so of course we would have a weaker emotional response compared to someone in the USA.
Yet it also means we’ve gone through a desensitisation to these acts of mass violence and everyone goes through this. Even the media because Sky News itself mentioned that the only reason why they were reporting on it was because of who the shooter was and they used to go to the school.
They didn’t report on it because children had died, so why do people go through this process of desensitisation and what else happens when we’re exposed to mass violence over and over again?
That’s what we’ll look at now.
What Is Mass Violence Fatigue?
As I outlined in the section above, as the number of mass violence acts sadly increases over time, a lot of people reach a point when they’re no longer shocked by these tragic and outrageous events.
Another example of this decrease of shock is the COVID-19 pandemic because at the beginning of lockdown a lot of people were scared, concerned and they were very emotional about the number of people dying. Yet after months and months of lockdowns (and government mismanaged in the UK) a lot of people felt psychologically and emotionally numb and exhausted.
Moreover, the loss of social support, generalised anxiety and loss of concentration that a lot of people experience after a mass shooting or another form of mass violence, and these consequences and feelings that are increasing because of the increasing number of mass shootings. They all only add to our level of desensitisation.
All of this is perfectly normal, but tragic. It is part of us as humans to get desensitised to a stimulus after a while. It is a survival mechanism after all. As well as it is a strategy that helps us to continue our daily lives, focus our brains on what it needs to do so we can work, live and have a life outside of our constant fear and anxiety.
This is why we became emotionally and psychologically numb during COVID because our brains needed us to be numb so we could focus on surviving a massive global pandemic.
Overall, mass violence fatigue is another term for this desensitisation people go through after being exposed to acts of mass violence time and time again.
Why Can’t We Let Mass Violence Fatigue Control Us?
In addition, we need to overcome our desensitisation and we cannot ever allow mass violence fatigue to control us and make us ignore this stuff. Since at some point the numbness will fall away, or (and I truly hope this never ever happens to any of you) it will be ripped away from us because we will have to deal with an act of mass violence personally. Be it because we are a victim or we know a victim personally.
Due to if we don’t deal with or we don’t learn the lessons of the devastation these acts of mass violence causes, as well as the feelings of paralysis and how overwhelming it is, will only grow and continue.
How Can We Improve Mental Health Damaged by Mass Violence?
Whenever we experience an act of mass violence or a mass shooting, we need to give ourselves the time and the space to allow ourselves to process what the hell had just happened, and we need to experience the pain safely. We need to talk about the traumatic events, we need to feel safe with. You can feel safe with a loved one, family, friends, a therapist, a support group or someone else entirely.
Just make sure you talk about it and you can make sense of the event as well as understand what the event means for you and those around you. Since it is this understanding and this meaning that we personally give it that helps us to feel in control of what happened. Instead of us letting the event control us and we give it more power than it deserves.
Additionally, I saw a recent article on Psychology Today called something along the lines of “Are We Becoming The United States of learnt Helplessness?” and I found the title interesting but I didn’t look it. Yet the idea of learnt helplessness after a mass shooting is important to understand because when fully trained and armed police officers fail to even act and storm in and stop a shooter. Then of course you will feel powerless and helpless.
This is even more important when those in power don’t seem to be doing anything to make the situation better and the whole cycle of mass shootings, deaths and more mass shootings just continue again and again.
Therefore, with all this going on, people feel helpless, alone and they start to think nothing can be done to decrease mass violence in their country, whatever one it might be.
This is why it’s a good idea to build and maintain meaningful social relationships because social support is critical to our mental health and survival. As well as limit media exposure to violence is another good idea so you can reset yourself and avoid it, but if these emotions continue then maybe professional help is needed.
Forensic And Clinical Psychology Conclusion
Personally, this was a tough episode because I don’t like mass shootings and the reasoning behind them, and I hate the reason why mass shootings are legally allowed to continue even more. But of course The Psychology World Podcast isn’t political and I would never want to comment publicly on another country’s politics, but reading those statistics of 20,000 dead children was hard for me and it is still is.
That’s why I wanted to do this podcast episode. Just so I could do something because I completely agree that desensitisation isn’t right in response to mass shootings but it happens.
Therefore, whilst nothing will change about this situation for years, if ever, I wanted to at least do something so if you are ever unfortunately involved in a mass violence event then you will know you aren’t alone, what happened to you isn’t right and there are some steps you can take if you want to recover and reset yourself.
I know this was a dark podcast episode but it needed to be done. Not just out of my own interest in this area but so anyone impacted by an act of mass violence knows some steps they could take if needed.
Mass violence is wrong on so many levels, but I just want to help its victim in a small way if I can.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Today’s episode has been sponsored by Forensic Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Have a great day.
Clinical Psychology and Forensic Psychology References:
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