Psychology responds to Connecticut school shooting

What APA has done and how psychologists can help

By Public Relations staff

Dec. 19, 2012—The American Psychological Association recognizes that our members and many people are struggling to comprehend the senseless violence that occurred this past week in Newtown, Conn. This article describes actions APA is taking to help and ways you can reach out in your own community to make an important difference.  

APA’s Disaster Response Network

As news of this tragedy broke, APA’s Disaster Response Network (DRN) quickly distributed resources to APA members and the public. Information on managing distress and ways to listen to and inform children about mass shootings (see links below) was posted to prime locations on the APA website, sent out on listservs and distributed via social media sites. APA collaborated with the Connecticut DRN Coordinator and our partner, the American Red Cross, on response needs. The local Red Cross chapter was on hand to respond with approximately 20 volunteer disaster mental health professionals, including psychologists, with support from Red Cross disaster mental health leadership from neighboring states. DRN Director Margie Bird also wrote a post on APA’s YourMindYourBody blog entitled How to Help Children Cope After a Shooting, which quoted child psychology expert Dr. Robin Gurwitch and offered links to useful psychological resources.

Media Outreach

APA turned to social media networks to disseminate information to the public quickly and efficiently. Following postings on Facebook and Twitter, the APA Help Center article “Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting” was viewed by an estimated audience of more than four million. It was retweeted and shared by many organizations and individuals including the American Red Cross, schools and educational organizations, psychologists and others. More than 10,000 people “liked” that article on And other Help Center resources received hundreds of thousands of views.

Public Education Campaign members submitted blog posts to the YourMindYourBody blog, including:

Shortly after the story broke, APA responded to inquiries from reporters and distributed media advisories to print, radio and TV outlets putting journalists in touch with psychologists for interviews. Many APA members including DRN and Public Education Campaign members participated in media interviews in their local communities, sharing tips and resources on managing distress and maintaining hope for the future.

NPR’s Diane Rehm show and ABC World News were among the media outlets that turned to APA members and staff for interviews. In addition, APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, was part of a panel discussion on PBS’ Newshour on Dec. 17.

Watch the PBS Newshour panel – Beginning at the 20-minute mark

How You Can Help

Psychologists can make an important difference during this tragedy by reaching out to support their local communities. The media coverage has brought this event to communities far from Connecticut.

Collaborate with your state, provincial and territorial psychological association’s (SPTA) Public Education Campaign Coordinator to find out about efforts underway and how you might be able to contribute. Many schools, YMCAs, boys and girls clubs and other groups would likely value outreach by psychologists to offer coping resources and possibly discuss common reactions to these types of tragedies, and steps that can be taken to build resilience skills to manage trying times.


APA members are encouraged to share and distribute the following resources with community organizations, schools, local media and individuals.

For children
For parents, teachers and adults
Disaster Helpline from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration