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Pulse shootings’ lingering trauma must be public-health priority

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Orlando Sentinel, June 2021

June 12 marks five years since the horrific mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub—the second deadliest incident of its kind in U.S. history. Gov. Ron DeSantis declared the day “Pulse Remembrance Day” in honor of the 49 killed in the massacre, but then eliminated nearly $1 million from a budget funding programs supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

Included in the cut was the state’s share of the funding for the Orlando United Assistance Center, which Mayor Buddy Dyer established in the aftermath of the shooting to provide support for the grieving families and survivors of the attack who continue to struggle with both physical and emotional scars.

Research shows that mass shootings exert a psychological toll on their direct victims and members of the communities in which they took place. The National Center for PTSD has estimated that 28% of people who witness a mass shooting will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; another 33% will experience a stress disorder. Initial reactions to trauma can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness and numbness. More severe responses include sleep disorders, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. These mental-health impacts often last for years and impose significant costs on the society.

For these reasons, the law-enforcement response is just the first step in the enormous, costly response to a public mass shooting. Once security is restored, it falls on our elected officials to help communities recover from trauma. In the aftermath of recent mass shootings in Atlanta, Boulder, Indianapolis and San Jose, policymakers at all levels of government need to recognize and respond to the devastating and long-lasting impact of such events. Funding for mental health services for victims, first responders, and communities affected by these tragedies is urgently needed.

Continue reading at the Orlando Sentinel.

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