Mass Violence Is a Public Health Crisis

Original article written by Dean G. Kilpatrick, Ph.D. for the American Hospital Association



Mass violence and domestic terrorism comprise a major public health crisis in America.


It is a crisis that strikes at our most basic and collective sense of humanity. It is a crisis that repeats on a now regular basis in communities large and small across America. And it is a crisis that has literally struck fear in the lives of countless people, as indicated by a Gallup poll conducted in 2019, which found that nearly half of Americans fear that they or a family member will be a victim of a mass shooting.


The mission of the National Mass Violence Victimization Resource Center (NMVVRC) is to improve community preparedness and the nation’s capacity to serve victims and communities recovering from mass violence incidents (MVI) through research, planning, training, technology and collaboration.


An important collaboration to help them achieve this important mission is NMVVRC’s principal partnership with the American Hospital Association (AHA) and its Hospitals Against Violence initiative. Their collaborative efforts denote that any mass violence preparation strategies that fail to proactively engage and integrate the leaders and dedicated health care workforce cannot ultimately succeed.


In the Supporting Victims and Communities of Mass Violence Incidents Webinar Series co-sponsored by the NMVVRC and AHA in 2021, hospital executives, trauma surgeons, victim service professionals and survivors spoke about the need for coordinated advance planning among hospitals, social and victim/survivor services, and behavioral health professionals to identify and address the immediate needs of mass violence victims and impacted communities. From the NMVVRC’s community needs assessment surveys conducted in Parkland, El Paso and Pittsburgh, we also know that the prevalence of current and past-year PTSD in impacted communities is four-to-five times higher than the national average.


NMVVRC and AHA announced a joint effort to create a “Hospital & Health Care Systems Leadership Checklist,” which is designed to provide a foundation to hospitals and health care systems to determine their readiness, capacity and immediate-, short-term and long-term resources to identify the needs of mass violence survivors and affected communities; and to collaboratively address these needs with allied professionals, including first responders, victim service professionals, and mental and behavioral health professionals.


The NMVVRC also recognizes that the public health crisis of mass violence can too often create a personal health crisis, including burnout, for hospital and health care professionals who respond to these catastrophic crimes. When the daily stress of working in health care is compounded by the acute and overwhelming stress of heroically responding to mass violence victims and their loved ones, personal devastation and despair can be predictable outcomes.


From decades of research, it is clear that an individual’s degree of social support is an important mitigating factor in reducing the mental health impact of traumatic events. Through NMVVRC’s partnership with the AHA, they share a commitment to ensure that multidisciplinary clinical care, and long-term psychological and peer support for health care professionals who respond to mass violence crimes are core components of any long-term resilience strategy.


As the NMVVRC continues their efforts to help communities build resilience in the aftermath of mass violence crimes, they believe that efforts to also strengthen the personal resilience of hospital and health care workers who have witnessed first-hand and responded to unimaginable physical and emotional trauma are a priority.


To read the full statement, CLICK HERE.