Mass violence and domestic terrorism are a major public health crisis in America.
This is a crisis that is hitting our most basic and collective sense of humanity. This is a crisis that is recurring regularly in large and small communities in America. And this is a crisis that has literally instilled fear in the lives of countless people, according to a Gallup poll conducted in 2019, which found that nearly half of Americans fear that they or a family member will fall victim to mass shooting.
The mission of the National Resource Center for Mass Violence (NMVVRC) is to improve community readiness and the nation’s capacity to serve victims and communities recovering from mass violence incidents (MVI) through research, planning, training, technology, and collaboration.
There has been no better collaboration to help us achieve this important mission than our core partnership with the American Hospital Association (AHA) and its Hospitals Against Violence initiative. Our joint efforts show that any strategy to prepare for mass violence that fails to actively engage and integrate leaders and a dedicated workforce in healthcare may ultimately fail.
In a series of webinars in support of victims and communities of incidents of mass violence, co-sponsored by NMVVRC and AHA in 2021, we heard from hospital managers, trauma surgeons, victim service specialists and survivors about the need for coordinated advance planning between hospitals, social services and victims / services for survivors and behavioral health professionals to identify and address the immediate needs of victims of mass violence and affected communities. We have learned about their recognition and concern about the long-term impact of crimes of mass violence on victims, survivors and community members, which require additional resources and ongoing coordination to effectively meet such needs. And we know from the NMVVRC community needs assessment studies in Parkland, El Paso and Pittsburgh that the prevalence of current and last year’s PTSD in the affected communities is four to five times higher than the national average.
I am very excited about our joint efforts to establish a “Hospital and Health Systems Leadership Checklist”, which is designed to provide a basis for hospitals and health systems to determine their readiness, capacity and immediate, short-term and long-term resources. to identify the needs of survivors of mass violence and affected communities; and to together address these needs with related professionals, including first aid staff, victim service professionals and mental and behavioral health professionals. When published later this summer, the checklist will be a short, valuable resource for all of us involved in preparedness, response and resilience to mass violence.
We at NMVVRC also recognize that public health crisis of mass violence too often can create a personal health crisis, including incineration, for hospital and health professionals who respond to these catastrophic crimes. When the daily stress of working in healthcare is complicated by the acute and enormous stress of the heroic response of victims of mass violence and their loved ones, personal devastation and despair can be predictable results.
From decades of research we know that the degree of the individual Social assistance is an important mitigating factor in reducing the impact on mental health of traumatic events. Through our partnership with the AHA, we share a commitment to ensuring that multidisciplinary clinical care and long-term psychological and partner support for health professionals who respond to mass violent crime are key components of any long-term sustainability strategy.
As the NMVVRC continues its efforts to help communities build resilience to crime of mass violence, we believe that efforts to strengthen personal resilience of hospital and healthcare professionals who have witnessed first-hand and responded to unimaginable physical and emotional trauma are a priority.
Dean G. Kilpatrick, PhD, is the director of the National Resource Center for Mass Violence. He is also a distinguished university professor of clinical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.