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J Interpers Violence. 2017 Nov 1:886260517742915. doi: 10.1177/0886260517742915. [Epub ahead of print]

Social and Contextual Influences on Mental Health Following an Episode of Mass Violence.

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1 University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.


Few studies explore how the recovery context following an episode of mass violence affects posttragedy mental health (MH), despite clear implications for developing posttrauma supports. Following a mass murder, this prospective, longitudinal study examined how reactions to media coverage, family reactions, and disappointment in social support influenced posttragedy MH (posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety), above and beyond the influence of pretragedy MH, pretragedy victimization, and objective exposure. University students who participated in a study of college adjustment prior to the mass murder ( n = 593) were recontacted and provided information on their posttragedy life ( n = 142). Students ( n = 84) also responded to open-ended questions about what was the most stressful part of the tragedy and psychological effects of the mass murder. After accounting for pretragedy victimization and MH, and objective exposure to events, hierarchical regression analyses indicated that distress related to media coverage and stronger family reactions contributed to higher levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms and anxiety, but not depression. Disappointment with social support was not significantly related to posttragedy MH. Common themes in student comments include grief, feeling vulnerable/unsafe, concern for the impact on others, stress related to media coverage, proximity to the events, changes in psychosocial adjustment, and returning to daily life. Results suggest that negative reactions to media coverage and family reactions that are overprotective or distressing negatively affect survivors' MH, beyond their objective exposure to the violence, pretragedy MH, and pretragedy victimization.


community violence; homicide; media and violence; mental health and violence


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