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How the Mind Responds to Endless Bad National News

December 09, 2019

Two shootings in two days at military bases in Hawaii and Florida barely made the evening news, and these tragedies didn’t result in much water cooler talk, either.

Is this the new normal?

Not necessarily, according to Dr. Anthony Ng, medical director of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network’s East Region, which includes Natchaug and Backus hospitals.

Dr. Ng, a national expert on psychiatric emergencies and mass shootings, said there is so much bad news out there that people pay attention to what is most important, or close, to them.

“There is so much noise out there,” said Dr. Ng. “And there’s some fatigue that goes along with it. People are tuning it out as a coping mechanism.”

Dr. Ng compared it to the workplace – you have a long list of tasks so you need to prioritize. That’s what the mind does in a week where there were several national shootings, a presidential impeachment proceeding and, closer to home here in Connecticut, two teens gunned down by their mother’s boyfriend after a dispute about smoking in the house and a 1-year-old child missing after her mother was murdered.

“If you react to all of these things, you might lose your mind,” said Dr. Ng, who is participating in a PsychSummit online panel discussion about mass shootings Dec. 15 and leading two workshops at a Coalition for Psychiatric Emergencies conference in Arizona Dec. 11. “It’s almost like you have to tune out some of the bad news out there. It takes a toll on you.”

Another concern is people who have suffered through previous tragedies, such as Sandy Hook. Dr. Ng said all of this bad news can negatively impact their mental state and friends and loved ones should talk to them to make sure they are OK.

For information about seeking medical attention to treat anxiety or suicidal thoughts, click here.