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How to cope with fear of public places after mass shootings

With the rise of mass shootings happening at night clubs, music festivals, schools and even grocery stores, it seems nowhere is safe anymore. In the wake of these tragic events, many people have developed a heightened awareness of potential danger in public places.

“With all these shootings we are hearing about…it’s terrifying that we really do have to expect the unexpected when we’re out in public,” said FIU alumna Nelvis Ponce ’16. “Doesn’t matter if I’m going out to watch a movie with my husband, an event or even a night out with a couple of friends, that anxiety is always there.”

This onslaught of gun violence has taken a toll on our psychological well-being. Recently, a motorcycle backfiring in Time Square had people there panicking and running for cover as they believed the sounds were gunshots.

“It was disheartening to see the automatic assumption…fireworks [and] motorcycles can’t go off anymore without people assuming the worst, and that’s really sad,” said rising senior Sarah Mccaffrey, a psychology and women’s and gender studies major.

Ponce says she will continue to go out, though not so much to highly populated areas, but that she will remain hypervigilant of her surroundings. So how do we cope with the lingering worry or sense of hopelessness that the next mass shooting could happen the next time we go to the movies or attend a concert?

Nicole Fava, a trauma expert and professor in the School of Social Work, offered some advice for anyone who is feeling scared and powerless right now.

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