Some media covering Las Vegas shooting accused of doing more harm


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A local psychologist is worried about the impact on survivors of the Las Vegas massacre, saying some TV reporters are deliberately inciting an emotional response with their interview questions.

Doctor Lawrence Miller says it’s not a good idea for reporters to act as amateur psychologists for survivors or first responders who might be traumatized.

“So that’s really risky. If you go up to someone in the crowd in Las Vegas and you say, ‘Oh, you know, you’re lucky to be alive,’ the person may be just kind of still trying to formulate, like, what all this means.  Well, what the person hears is, ‘I could have been killed’ and that is the kind of thought process that can begin the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

He adds certain questions are deliberately asked with the goal of prompting tears, but that’s dangerous when dealing with someone who’s mentally fragile.

“When someone’s been through trauma like that, the worst thing you can do is start saying how they should be feeling and ‘You must be the luckiest guy alive, you know, you’re lucky to be alive. You survived this thing,’ but by doing that, the innuendo is the person could have been killed and then, they start to take it more seriously right and they experience that sense of helplessness and horror which is key to the development of Post Traumatic Stress.”

Miller, who treats sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, says the last thing you should say to someone who’s been through a trauma is “You’re lucky to be alive.”

“Then they start to re-evaluate how safe they are in other environments and then, they get more cautious and all of these things can unfold, so you know I am concerned about the types of questions they’re asking trying to elicit a highly emotional response from someone who’s been already traumatized will only make them worse.”

Whether it’s intentional or not, he says that could also prompt a sense of helplessness or feelings of guilt because people with PTSD can be easily triggered –especially those who don’t want to admit they need help.

“In this particular case with Las Vegas, I mean, if someone were to say, ‘Well, you know the only reason I didn’t get shot today is because I didn’t go to this festival or that festival,’ so they just don’t go to any festival, but it’s a mistaken idea that it’s going to happen at every music festival, but in their mind, their brain is saying, ‘You’re safe today because you didn’t go to this other concert where very likely there would have been another shooter.’ That’s the mind trying to protect yourself after that traumatic experience.”

Investigators have remained stumped about what drove gunman Stephen Paddock, a reclusive 64-year-old high-stakes video poker player, to begin shooting at the crowd at a country music festival from his 32nd-floor Mandalay Bay hotel suite last Sunday, killing 58 and wounding hundreds before taking his own life.

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