“Mass shootings are on the rise and so is media coverage of them,” said Jennifer B. Johnston, PhD, of Western New Mexico University.
For many, like Johnston, the question is: Which came first?
“Is the relationship merely unidirectional: More shootings lead to more coverage? Or is it possible that more coverage leads to more shootings?” asks Johnston.
Defining mass shootings as either attempts to kill multiple people who are not relatives or those resulting in injuries or fatalities in public places, Johnston and her coauthor, Andrew Joy, BS, also of Western New Mexico University, reviewed data on mass shootings amassed by media outlets, the FBI and advocacy organizations, as well as scholarly articles.
Not only did Johnston and Joy find that the prevalence of these crimes has risen in relation to the mass media coverage of them and the proliferation of social media sites that tend to glorify the shooters and downplay the victims, but that people who commit mass shootings in America tend to share three traits: rampant depression, social isolation and pathological narcissism (Johnston & Joy, 2016).
Further, they found that “media contagion” is largely responsible for the increase in these often deadly outbursts (Johnston & Joy, 2016).
“We suggest that the media cry to cling to ‘the public’s right to know’ covers up a greedier agenda to keep eyeballs glued to screens, since they know that frightening homicides are their No. 1 ratings and advertising boosters,” explains Johnston (Johnston, 2016).
Unfortunately, Johnston and Joy also found that while many shooters see themselves as “victims of injustice,” a central component of many profiles of mass shooters is desire for fame” (Johnston & Joy, 2016).
This quest for fame among mass shooters skyrocketed since the mid-1990s “in correspondence to the emergence of widespread 24-hour news coverage on cable news programs, and the rise of the internet during the same period,” explains Johnston (Johnston, 2016).
The relationship between media coverage and incidence of mass shootings is just one of the many things we are learning about mass shootings, the factors that drive them, and the effect they have on us all.
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Course:
Counseling Victims of Mass Shootings is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE) course that gives clinicians the tools they need to help their clients process, heal, and grow following the trauma of a mass shooting.
Sadly, mass shootings are becoming more widespread and occurring with ever greater frequency, often leaving in their wake thousands of lives forever changed. As victims struggle to make sense of the horror they have witnessed, mental health providers struggle to know how best to help them. The question we all seem to ask is, “Why did this happen?”
This course will begin with a discussion about why clinicians need to know about mass shootings and how this information can help them in their work with clients. We will then look at the etiology of mass shootings, exploring topics such as effects of media exposure, our attitudes and biases regarding mass shooters, and recognizing the signs that we often fail to see.
We will answer the question of whether mental illness drives mass shootings. We will examine common first responses to mass shootings, including shock, disbelief, and moral injury, while also taking a look at the effects of media exposure of the victims of mass shootings.
Then, we will turn our attention to the more prolonged psychological effects of mass shootings, such as a critical questioning and reconsideration of lives, values, beliefs, and priorities, and the search for meaning in the upheaval left in the wake of horrific events. This course will introduce a topic called posttraumatic growth, and explore the ways in which events such as mass shootings, while causing tremendous amounts of psychological distress, can also lead to psychological growth. This discussion will include topics such a dialectical thinking, the shifting of fundamental life perspectives, the opening of new possibilities, and the importance of community. Lastly, we will look at the exercises that you, the clinician, can use in the field or office with clients to promote coping skills in dealing with such horrific events, and to inspire psychological growth, adaptation, and resilience in the wake of trauma. Course #31-09 | 2018 | 47 pages | 20 posttest questions
Our online courses provide instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more. Have a question? Contact us. We’re here to help!
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
Target Audience: Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapist (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), School Psychologists, and Teachers