Responding to April 30

A message from the staff of the Price Center for Counseling and Psychological Services:

No matter where you were on April 30, as a member of Niner Nation, you were impacted by the violent act that occurred in a space that we all assume to be safe -- a classroom, our campus, our community.

Perhaps you have already sought the help of a professional counselor or from your own support system. Regardless, as we move past the initial shock and the outpouring of support from Charlotte and beyond, I want to take a moment to provide some information that I hope you will find helpful as you try to understand your reactions and consider resources for seeking help.

While we fully expect that you will feel better over time, please know that it can take some people longer than others to begin to feel “normal” again and that is okay.

Any Reaction Is “Normal”
In the immediate aftermath of a significant traumatic experience, almost any reaction is “normal.”  

  • Shock, numbness, grief, guilt, fear, and panic are all common.

  • Behavioral changes such as difficulty sleeping, memory problems, fatigue, and re-experiencing the event might also be expected.

  • Interpersonal functioning may be impacted, and it may be a while before you feel like yourself again.

  • This incident may compound or reactivate feelings that linger from past traumas in your life.

  • Trauma reactions are “allowed” no matter where you were on April 30. Many members of the UNC Charlotte community are feeling traumatized by this event.

Coping Strategies to Consider
Beyond recognizing that your reactions are normal, there are several strategies you might consider as you work through the next few weeks and months:

  • Give yourself time. You may feel better for a while and then have a "relapse." This is normal. Allow plenty of time to adjust.

  • Be in contact with others—family, friends, or others who have also experienced this trauma—even though it may be difficult at first. It is human to want to withdraw when you are hurt, but keep in mind that emotional connection can be healing.

  • Talk about the experience —when you’re ready!  For most people, talking helps relieve some of the intense emotions we feel under stress.  But it’s up to you to decide when you’re ready.

  • Even if you start to talk about it, recognize when you’ve had enough, and take time to relax on your own. You might also consider limiting your exposure to news about the event on social media or other sources.

  • Try to keep your normal routine. Staying active will keep your mind on events other than the trauma. You may find  a sense of comfort with familiar tasks, and it will help put some psychological "distance" between you and the event.

  • Structure your time even more carefully than usual. It is normal to forget things when you are under stress. Keep lists and double-check any important work.

  • Maintain control where you can. Make small decisions, even if you feel they are unimportant.

  • Consider taking meaningful action to do something about the related causes of the trauma or something that allows you to feel more control. For example, you might form a support group, reach out to help others, or become active in efforts to reduce violence in our society.

Know When to Seek Help
While we hope you have plenty of resources available for your personal support, you should also recognize when getting help from a mental health professional who is trained in trauma-response might be wise.  Although it is normal to experience significant changes in functioning or mood after experiencing a trauma, be alert to symptoms that continue to bother you. It would be beneficial to make an appointment to see a counselor if you experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Experiencing repeated disturbing images related to the shooting or feeling as though it were happening again.

  • Being fearful that you will experience another such event to the extent that it affects your freedom or your behavior.

  • Disconnecting with others, becoming withdrawn from your friends and family, or disengaging from activity that you normally would find pleasurable or meaningful.

  • Feeling irritable, on edge, depressed, or numb.

  • Thinking of harming yourself or others.

  • Having trouble sleeping or experiencing nightmares related to the event.

  • Relying on drugs or alcohol to escape your negative thoughts or feelings.

Available Services
Even in the absence of these symptoms, many people find talking to a professional about a traumatic experience can be helpful as they return to regular functioning or to be proactive so that symptoms don’t emerge later. Having a periodic counseling session where you can explore thoughts and feelings can free up time to focus on others aspects of your life.

If you decide to seek counseling, here is information that we hope is helpful:

  • Counseling is available for all enrolled students. You can call our office at 704-687-0311 or email us at caps@uncc.edu to request an appointment to talk about your transition or to get referrals. Please see information at caps.uncc.edu for details about how to access services. 

  • Consider attending one of our "Restore" workshops.

  • Faculty and staff, please contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at 1-877-603-8259 for counseling assistance. Additional information is available on the HR website or by contacting Cindy Edwards at ckedward@uncc.edu or 704-687-0658.

Resources for support

Restore Workshops for Students -- Fall 2019

Coping with post-traumatic stress

Grief and loss 

Coping with school shooting

Support resources after a shooting

How faculty can help after the shooting