It is very important to address trauma, including mental health, suicide and violence in our community. However, we can do it through a lens that provides trauma informed information sharing while empowering our community with knowledge of long-term consequences of our choices. This also goes for the long-term consequence of our positive actions. While the urban areas have the four degrees of separation, ours is reduced to two and sometimes one.
SOS Tillamook Prevention Program’s mission is supporting a safe and healthy community where youth can thrive. An overview of what a Prevention does is really quite simple: it elevates the community conversation of addressing use and abuse of ATOD’s and gambling, while increasing the call for healthy community development including harm reduction for unsafe driving practices. Prevention Specialists are very aware of the need to ensure direct and concise information to educate the public on the dangers of and consequences of our actions.
Today, while prevention science has maintained this focus, its new lens is through Positive Social Norming. Prevention is reversing its problem-centered frame, and focuses on growing the healthy, positive, protective factors that already exist in our communities. While some do, most do not and we need to support what is impactful. When we start to look at the world through this positive, hopeful lens, it has a profound on impact the questions we ask, the data we collect, and the way we address health and safety issues. (See Gift of Positive, www.sostillamook.org 10/18/18)
However, without intention media and individuals can in fact cause more harm than good by “reporting” a tragedy in an effort to inform the public. Without intention, the traumatization and continue re-traumatization of the family and friends can be exacerbated by stories depicting detailed actions and photos of the scene. This can inadvertently cause vicarious or mediated trauma: a stress reaction after repeated exposer to traumatic images and events. This is due to the intensity, or repetitive exposure to the image or event that can trigger memory and in turn elicits unintended actions by those at risk to deal with the emotions. This also can be a catalyst for self-destructive behavior.
With postings of images and comment options on social media and websites, families relive their loved ones tragedy. Often, they now can filter their loved ones lives through negative comments and empty opinions exacerbating feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. This is even greater importance we are cognizant of the effects of the portrayal of reporting of individuals whom suicided or made attempts. Highlighted images of locations, mode of death, or other details are known to increase the catagen or ripple effect. This is especially true when depicting the location of suicide, which can become destinations for others.
Following the State of Oregon’s lead, in adopting a trauma informed policy, I have encouraged local media to address its initial and subsequent ripple effect of image and events they portray. The easiest change can be as simple as including a resource number with the article or submission. Due to the very nature and somewhat isolation of our county, knowing where to get help or support can be the most beneficial. We are a community in which we are all impacted directly because of our interconnectedness.
Mediated Trauma, PTS Response, Vicarious Trauma, Visual Trauma, Inherited Trauma