Dr. Stephen Sharp is a Las Vegas local and a faculty member of Divine Mercy University, a Catholic graduate school of psychology and counseling. Sharp commended the Las Vegas community for its proactive response to the tragedy.
The first responders in Las Vegas had trained for such a tragedy “for a long time,” he said, as authorities had predicted that the city could be a target for such an event. First responders and hospitals were prepared for the rapid influx of trauma patients, he said.
And, he noted, mental health and trauma professionals were able to provide a quick response.
In light of previous shootings, where the perpetrator was later judged to have serious mental health issues, the question of Stephen Paddock’s mental health has been asked in the wake of Sunday’s shooting.
There are reports, like ABC News’ citation of a person briefed on the investigation, that Paddock’s mental faculties had possibly deteriorated in the months leading up to the shooting, with his “increasingly slovenly” appearance and loss of weight, as well as an obsession with his girlfriend’s ex-husband.
Yet no official determination has been made about Paddock’s mental health, and Sharp cautioned against speculation
“To establish a mental health or mental illness issue or a diagnosis requires quite a bit of psychological input and assessment and testing,” he said. “It’s too early to jump to that conclusion, and by making that leap, I truly believe that we would be damaging the mental health community more than we would be helping.”
Rather, Sharp said, focus should be drawn to the provision of long-term mental health care to victims of the shooting and their families. “The effects of this kind of trauma go on for months, if not years, so people need to be in place to help folks for a long time,” he said.
Monsignor Weiss sees a need for professional care in the Newtown community years after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.
“We had issues in our schools starting Monday, with the whole thing coming back again,” he said of the Las Vegas shooting. High school students were crying after “they suppressed so much of the fear they experienced [in 2012],” he said. “It’s deadly to suppress the emotion, the grief.”
“You’ve got to get help, you’ve got to find someone you can trust, and you’ve got to talk about this. You just can’t suppress it and say it’s going to go away, because it’s not going away,” he said.
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A mass shooting also has a ripple effect, Sharp said, because in addition to the 58 dead in Las Vegas and the hundreds injured, there were thousands of concert-goers who witnessed the atrocity and experienced the trauma of being in the line of fire.
And the many family and friends of the dead and injured are themselves affected by the tragedy, he said: “It’s like a pebble in the pond that creates a tsunami on the other side of the pond, because this will go on for a long time.”
“These lives will never be the same,” he reflected. “The 22,000 people who were at the concert will never be the same. It’s changed their life forever, on some level, that we can’t even predict or know how that’s going to turn out for them.”
Americans should explore the cultural or societal factors behind the number of mass shootings, he said.
“I think it’s more of a societal concern than it is of an individual’s mental health concern,” he stated. “My question is why are we seeing wave after wave of these kinds of events?”
Another issue usually debated in the wake of a mass shooting is access to guns, and gun laws.