Coping with Incidents of Mass Violence

Warning Signs and What to Do

In the immediate aftermath of a mass violence incident like the Pulse Nightclub attack in June 2016 in Orlando, Florida or the school shooting incident at Saugus High School in Southern California in 2019, it is common to experience feelings of anxiety, helplessness and fear—even for those with no personal connection to the tragedy. 


Other signs of emotional distress may include the following:

(Clicking the links below will take you to informational pages located on, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

  •  Trouble sleeping
  •  Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  •  Feeling helpless or hopeless
  •  Worrying a lot of the time; feeling guilty but not sure why
  •  Feeling like you have to keep busy
  •  Excessive smoking, drinking, or using drugs (including prescription medication)

Learn more about warning signs and risk factors for emotional distress related to incidents of mass violence and other disasters.


Know How to Relieve Stress

Because these types of disasters are unpredictable and can happen anywhere without warning, it’s normal for people to experience emotional distress,” said Tanya A. Royster, MD, Director of the Department of Behavioral Health. “It’s important to pay attention to your physical and mental health, take steps to relieve stress, and know when to get help.

  • Limit exposure to graphic news stories
  • Get accurate, timely information from reliable sources
  • Maintain a normal daily routine, if possible
  • Exercise, eat well and rest
  • Stay active – physically and mentally
  • Stay in touch with family and friends
  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Share your concerns with others

Most people who experience emotional distress related to mass violence are able to recover quickly, but others may need additional support to move forward on the path of recovery.  

Know when to get help

  • Seek professional help if tragedy-related emotional or psychological problems persist or become severe. 
  • You may want to talk to your doctor or a counselor if stress is causing you to experience physical symptoms or worsening of a chronic medical condition.
  •  Finally, seek professional help if you find yourself “treating” your stress by misuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or by engaging in other unhealthy behaviors.

The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) encourages residents to call the 24-hour ACCESS helpline (1-800-854-7771) if they feel the need to speak with a professional.


The confidential helpline is available year-round for the community.