Long after the hundreds of witnesses and survivors of the Aurora, Colorado movie massacre make it out of the theater alive, they will be dealing with this horrific shock to the system.
The witnesses to this unfathomable act of evil have just been dealt a psychological blow that will send them reeling into a dark period. Some of them will actually come out of this tragedy better than they went in. But for others, this nightmare will be the trigger that culminates with their own downfall.
Officially, 12 people died in the theater. But the truth is, James Holmes killed more than 12 people. Some of them haven't died yet -- and I don't mean those who are injured in the hospital. I mean those who will slowly begin a downward slide into narcotic addiction or chronic mental health problems that could lead to their death by suicide or other means.
Let's take a look at some of the factors that will determine which way a survivor goes:
Support. Support from family, friends, and professionals is crucial in the aftermath of a tragedy. Those who come out of the theater or the hospital into the patient and loving arms of people who care about them will have an easier time making a psychological recovery. Survivors of other tragedies, like the Columbine shootings, have said that keeping in touch with those who experienced the tragedy also helped them.
Faith. A person doesn't have to be religious to recover from a tragedy, however, a strong spiritual sense, or a belief in a "higher power," or, at the very least, a trust that there is a "plan" for you and even a tragedy was part of that overall plan, has been shown to help with recovery.
DNA. Some people are just more predisposed to mental issues and drug and alcohol abuse than others are. There are some people who went into the theater that night having perhaps never even used drugs or alcohol or never having experienced deep depression, but who will now have those predispositions triggered by the tragedy.
Personality. People who have a more natural tendency towards optimism and empathy might find themselves now feeling a strong pull towards a career in helping others. Others who have a tendency towards calmness and perseverance will find themselves able to move past the tragedy with relative ease. But those with a bent towards negativity, anxiety, or neuroticism will be more severely affected and need more help and time to fully recover.
Unfortunately, some of these factors are out of a person's control. It is just a fact that some of the victims of this tragedy are going to have a much harder time recovering from it while others will move on much more quickly. Hopefully, all of them will take control of the things they CAN control -- like relying on a support network -- and do the best they can to come out of that theater a winner of life, and not another victim of the evil James Holmes.
What do you think the survivors can do to help themselves recover?
Image via PhotoAtelier/Flickr