IRVINE (CBSLA.com) — At UC Irvine flags fly at half-staff. And even chalk graffiti addresses recent tragedies in the news.
For Salma Rocha, it was coverage of the Orlando massacre she found herself unable to turn off.
“I have a brother who is actually gay,” says Rocha, “and it’s just sad to think that someone could be so cruel to hurt innocent human beings.”
She’s not alone — from Minnesota to Dallas, in just the past day tragedies have dominated headlines and social media timelines.
And a UC Irvine researcher warns, “I’m saying, It’s not good for you.”
E. Alison Holman is the interim director of the nursing program at UCI.
She studied the impact of mass tragedies on the public psyche after the 9/11 and the Boston marathon attacks.
What she found was people who repeatedly watched or saw images of those attacks had elevated acute stress levels. People she studied also reported more health problems over the next three years.
“The symptoms of fear and anxiety, those early responses are linked to long-term mental and physical health problems.” Holman says.
She says it’s not clear how long the effects will last. Holman suggests informing yourselves, but resisting the urge to repeatedly watch or view disturbing images
“It heightens people’s fear,” she says, “which is bad for your mind, it’s bad for your body. If we know that, then we need to stop that process.”
It’s advice Jonianne Jeanette is already following.
“Specifically avoiding the imagery,” said Jeanette, “discussion is opened up but I don’t expose myself or the kids to that.”