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'Look for the helpers': Clinical psychologist shares ways to discuss, process recent gun violence in KC

Dr. Meagan Dwyer
Posted at 9:06 AM, Mar 05, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Our community has experienced lots of trauma over the past few weeks — including the shooting following the Chiefs Super Bowl rally and the loss of Independence police officer Cody Allen and civil process server Drexel Mack.

So many senseless examples of gun violence are hard to process and talk about regardless of how this may or may not directly impact you.

Dr. Meagan Dwyer is a licensed clinical psychologist who said it's important to remember people will respond to these tragedies differently.

“Those early phases tend to be a lot more acute, a lot more intense for people. Oftentimes they may have intrusive thoughts or intrusive images if they were really close to an event, witnessed certain things happening," she said. "They may have nightmares, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or have this heightened sense of feeling jumpy.”

Dwyer said the dialogue used to talk to children about this is especially important. She gave examples of what to say and how to say it.

“If you want to talk to someone, I'll listen. If you want to talk to someone outside of mom and dad, we can get you set up with someone," she said. "That's normalizing that it's not because something's wrong with you. It's because you experienced something that was wrong and it's really hard.”

She said the way children show these signs is different than adults.

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“It may not be that they're talking or asking directly about it. It could come out in play that they're playing differently, it could come out in their writing or drawing that that's where they may feel more comfortable sharing," Dwyer said. "It could come out that they're more agitated or dis-regulated. They're harder to calm down when they get upset about something else. So, it can be for us as parents and community members to step back and observe a little bit.”

While nothing can undo or replace the tragedies of the past, Dwyer said there is one clear path forward.

“We're geared towards connection," she said. "I think connecting with other people (during these times) is really important.”