I overheard several of my women friends admitting to one another that they don’t read the newspaper or watch television. Nearly a week after a gunman went into a local mental hospital, shot one man dead and wounded seven others before a campus policeman killed him, they hadn’t heard about the incident. I found this deeply disturbing.
I know these women to be sensitive, compassionate, spiritually oriented people, and I’m sure part of their refusal to not pay attention to the news is that much of what is broadcast as news, isn’t. And much of what is reported locally, nationally, and internationally, tells of horrific events in such graphic detail, viewers are at risk for developing vicarious trauma by just by reading or viewing the images.
Once the women heard about the shooting incident, they were appalled, and deeply concerned for the victims of such a senseless tragedy. For the family members, like the fiancée of the man that was killed, and his parents who had already lost their only other child, a daughter, when she was killed by her boy-friend a couple of years ago. Once they knew of them and what they are dealing with, they weep and wondered how such terrible tragedies can be visited on simple, good people.
One women expressed concern for the campus policeman who was put in the situation to have to take someone’s life. Used to dealing with tipsy teenagers and college pranksters, his heroic actions saved lives, but needing to shoot to kill would have been farthest thing from his mind when he reported to work that day.
Another women expressed concern for the patients in the hospital and the staff who were put on lock down for several hours. And what about the ripple effect involving others in the community? Until the city police could give the all clear to the schools and offices surrounding the incident, an entire neighborhood had to be locked down, leaving hundreds of family members worrying and praying for their loved ones’ safe return.
There is danger for compassionate empathic people, in learning the details of even a single incident like this one. But with traditional media outlets cranking out news 24/7, and blogs, emails and facebook, we are all at risk for becoming overwhelmed. How many people can we afford to let in to our circle of concern because once we know about them, they are in our thoughts and prayers, our nightmares and dreams?