On the upcoming first anniversary of the Sandy Hook school tragedy, there is strong evidence of how the event is affecting communities across the United States. A new diagnosis, known as the Sandy Hook Syndrome (a phrase I coined), has emerged. After researching the issues at length, the findings are alarming yet interesting.
The Sandy Hook Syndrome is a state of mind that is causing some drastic changes in daily behaviors of people, particularly those who leave in areas that were affected by school shootings. I am referring to school shootings in places like Red Lake, Newtown, Columbine, Virginia Tech.
Obviously, people have become more vigilant since 9/11 but the change in behavior we are seeing is a lot more significant than just vigilance.
This behavior is a high point that resulted from the prevalence of school tragedies that people have been seeing and hearing in the news to the point that now it is actually affecting behaviors in these communities where people are changing the way they live. An example of how the Sandy Hook Syndrome is affecting communities is the increase in the number of school referendums seeking to introduce new security guidelines. Another example is the rapid introduction of significant physical changes to school grounds to add visual security features like metal detectors, arming teachers, using bulletproof school supplies and so on. These are indications that the Sandy Hook Syndrome is all too real. It is something that is affecting the American psyche at an alarming rate.
There have been nearing ten thousand gun related deaths on top of the fact that there have been already 5 school shootings and 3 mall shootings and dozens of gun related violence, some of which had fatalities. Most of these shootings do not even make the news. It is therefore conceivable that this syndrome will be occurring more frequently as more and more people try to change their behaviors to adapt to this unfortunate new reality that we are facing. Understanding this new reality is key to effectively respond to the SHS and how it affects society and our families.
A Remedy to the Sandy Hook Syndrome
There are two parts to addressing the Sandy Hook Syndrome. The first part is broader in nature and requires that we, as a society, change this culture of violent retaliation often aimed at public infrastructures where there is likely to be youth present. We do so by generating for example, a campaign of sensitization much like the public safety announcements against drugs or drunk driving. This of course works better when local governments are involved. But the force behind this movement has to come from a grass roots standpoint, from people like you and I who stand up and say “hey, it is great that we are considering physical measures to protect our children but we have to also focus on changing mindsets and taking a prevention approach rather than a reactive one.”
The second part is to introduce group programs like Prose it out that introduce a community approach to addressing mass trauma. While some people may experience a deeper level of trauma and PTSD necessitating a one on one consultation with a physician, the vast majority may benefit from a community approach such as Prose it out. In a community setting, people heal together by bonding over community generated slogans that serve as an invincible symbol of resilience and courage. The grieving time is accelerated by this group approach which in turn reduces the socio-economical effect on the community.
An example of community healing occurred during the Boston bombing where the community bonded around 2 words “Boston strong”. People were coming up with ways to do community events and activities in their neighborhoods, on social media and the internet (selling t-shirts, donating money, building communities, helping victims, donating blood, etc…).
Other notable “healing words” are “I am an American” – used after 9/11, where ordinary people brought these words to life through self organized events. These actions are tantamount to taking 2 pills of “I am an American” in the morning, One pill of “Boston Strong” in the evening.” It keeps us strong and resilient in the face of Terroristic Syndrome.
Unfortunately, we cannot wait for a tragedy to occur to duplicate this “community healing” setting. Instead we need programs such as Prose it out that helps people deal with tragedy by using the written words, something that’s been around for thousands of years, storytelling, writing prose, poetry and notes, to reproduce the sense of community togetherness to overcome personal tragedies in a group settings, at their own pace and inexpensively.
My program does exactly that. You do not have to be a writer or an expert to use these specific techniques to deal with tragedies. The program has a specific section for children as well and addresses trauma in a different yet equally effective manner.