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‘Acts of Kindness’ Ease Sandy Hook Pain

Monday, 24 December 2012 03:56 PM

Media coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy continues to dominate the news, which is making it hard for many people to cope with the shootings and get on with their lives.

But nationally known psychotherapist Fran Sherman says it’s important for those still struggling with overwhelming feelings of sadness to take steps to grieve for the Connecticut victims and put the incident behind them. It’s also essential that we look for the lessons the Newtown shootings have for the nation as a whole but that we act, individually, in ways that honor the children and adults killed in the Connecticut tragedy, she says.

“It’s OK to be sad but we do need to try to focus on positive ways to use that sadness and that energy,” says Sherman. “Because, you know, this happened for a reason and we have to figure out what it is and so let’s use the goodness that we have to celebrate their lives.”

One thing she recommends is engaging in a charitable act of some kind — “pay it forward [with] acts of kindness” — in response to the tragedy.

“I think there are so many things that we can do,” she suggests. “I think that if you can do something to celebrate these children’s lives, then it helps you to feel like you’re grieving, but you’re grieving in a positive way. You’re doing something to remember them in a really good way.”

Another option: Write a letter to families of the victims and post it online at one of the many Web-based Sandy Hook memorial sites. “There are many sites on the internet, real sites, where you can write down your thoughts and talk about your feelings and it’s OK,” she notes.

Sherman also recommends against watching too much television coverage of the fallout of the shootings. “It’s so important to move on with life and to do your regular routine,” she advises. “And, yes, you can catch up on the news, but you really need to not watch 24/7 because it’s not healthy.”

Children may be especially vulnerable to extensive news coverage of tragedies like the Newtown shootings, she added.

“I think it’s really important that parents talk to their children about what’s happened because if we don’t talk to them then they’ll hear from somebody else,” she says. “But they shouldn’t be listening to the news because they see all the grief and sadness and they might see things that they shouldn’t be seeing.”

Sherman hopes the shootings will prompt a new look at the importance of boosting mental healthcare.
“Are there ways that we can ensure that the mentally ill will never do this? No, because a lot of times the mentally ill are not identified,” she says. “But I think the nation has to do a so much better job of identifying the mentally ill, of treating the mentally ill. One of the things we’ve always cut first is coverage for mentally ill and a tremendous percentage of our society has psychological issues.”

Sherman also suggests that it’s important not to stigmatize people with mental illness in the wake of the shooting. For instance, Asperger’s syndrome — which Adam Lanza reportedly suffered from — is not a mental illness and does not make people with the condition more prone to violence. And even individuals with severe psychotic mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, are generally docile and not violent.

“People with Asperger’s, generally, for the most part, are not dangerous at all,” she explains.

Sherman adds, however, that she hopes the Newtown tragedy will inspire more people to get involved when they observe individuals who act out in ways that may pose a danger to themselves and those around them.

“What we need to look for is people who act out angrily, who yell, who scream, who appear to be hurting themselves, who threaten to hurt others,” she says. “Hopefully, this will motivate us to not sit back, but to actually engage and maybe call the police or try to get somebody help and not be afraid that somebody is going to be angry at you, because that’s a way to really help somebody.”

© HealthDay

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Acts of kindness can ease the pain of the shootings of the Connecticut school children.
Monday, 24 December 2012 03:56 PM
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