Take A Breath: How to Heal From Violence On Your College Campus

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Kathleen Fatica

Baylor University, University of California, Los Angeles, and DePaul University are just a few of the college campuses that have been rocked by traumatic events. You might recognize some of these universities from recent news reports, but what happens when the school with a scandal isn’t just a headline, but your life?

As a student at one of these universities, I understand how critical it is to be vigilant in dealing with a campus crisis for yourself and others. Emotions intensify in a time of crisis, and it’s incredibly hard to bring them back down and effectively communicate with your peers and yourself about what has happened. The only way to make it through times like these is to do what’s best for you as an individual, and hopefully, some of the options I’ve presented in this list can guide you along a positive path.

Here are a few ways I’ve found effective to stabilize oneself in the midst of a campus crises, so that you, your peers, and your community as a whole can start mending as soon as possible.

1. Depending on the type of violence occurring on campus, get somewhere safe.

If the event is a major concern for your safety, get somewhere safe no matter what. This means out of sight of the violent person(s), preferably a locked room or a place where you can barricade the door. Conversely, if tension is running high at your university (like at an on-campus political protest) but there is no physical danger, you don’t necessarily need to flee with the same immediacy. However, look out for warning signs such as verbal abuse and minor physical violence, like shoving, that often characterizes a brewing situation. These are signals that it’s time to get somewhere safe.

2. Say what you need to say. 

After a traumatic event on campus, especially a political one, you’re never going to begin healing until you let your opinion out at least once. However, this doesn’t mean you have to add to the hordes of Facebook statuses about what happened at your school. Whether it’s scribbled into a journal, discussed with a close friend, or through a megaphone to a crowd, getting your opinion out will lift a weight off your shoulders. But once you’ve said it to your satisfaction, don’t dwell. You can’t control the situation, only your reaction to it, and arguing with peers will only make you feel hopeless.

3. Make sure your social media use is healthy, not harmful.

It’s only natural to look at social media, especially after a crisis – it’s part of our daily routine, and doing something normal hypothetically should help us feel more normal. However, I’ve noticed that when I use social media after traumatic events like this, I end up feeling awful. When you’re in a university crisis, reading your classmates posts can sometimes be empowering, but after awhile it can be painful as the same upsetting topics get rehashed. Similarly, the accessible nature of the internet means that the event can be commented on by thousands who have very strong opinions about what’s happening on your campus. Politics and tragedy seem to be intimately intertwined lately, and these opinions do deserve careful attention. However, my advice would be to take them in at a slow rate.  If you’re affected by the UCLA shooting, seeing thousands of posts angrily denouncing gun control laws and sensationalist taglines like “A Parent’s Worst Nightmare” will only make you feel worse.

When the situation is over, every stance has been read, and social media is dragging you down, utilize the “Hide topic” option in your Trending Topics news feed on platforms like Facebook until the flurry of opinions dies down. In the meantime, you can ask a close friend to alert you if anything major crops up.

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Facebook photo via Shutterstock.

4. Take a break from your campus.

When the violent protests at DePaul University happened, the campus I was so fond of felt like a sad caricature of its former self, haunted with the hurtful behavior of the previous day. So, I left. I’m an out-of-state student, so I couldn’t turn to the comforts of home. But luckily, it didn’t take that much. It was midterms week, so I rode the El train one stop over to a cheerful cafe to study, rather than using my go-to spot in the library. Getting distance from the place where a rattling event took place helped me get some perspective on the experience, which helped me feel more stable about what had happened.

Dealing with a crisis is never easy, and it often feels as though your negative feelings will never end. I’m here to tell you that they will. Whatever awful situation you’re dealing with in your university community (or a similar community, like a workplace) can never be undone. However, behaving in specific ways can help to heal yourself and your community more quickly after the conflict and get you back to a place where you can re-build.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathleen Fatica is a rising sophomore at DePaul University working towards a degree in Creative Writing and Public Relations. Before she joined The Culture-ist, Kathleen worked as an editor and writer for student newspapers at DePaul University including Her Campus DePaul and The DePaulia.  When she’s not busy writing or editing, Kathleen enjoys listening to female rappers and color coding her planner while she city-hops her way across the globe. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at@kathleeen2102

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