FRIDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- As word spread Friday that a heavily armed man had shot up a suburban Denver movie theater crowded with families and children for a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, mental health experts offered guidance on how to cope with the tragedy.
While this latest act of carnage unnerved a nation still scarred by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, psychologists said children and teens may be especially vulnerable to the early Friday shootings in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 people dead and as many as 59 others wounded.
"It would be perfectly normal for people to be more on edge right now," said Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. "It's a natural reaction when you hear about, experience or witness a traumatic event. You're primed to be more vigilant about what's happening to you."
But parents can do much to reassure their children that such an incident isn't likely to repeat itself anytime soon, experts said. And it's important to offer that reassurance now.
"This is clearly a very disturbed individual [the 24-year-old shooting suspect] and parents have to reassure kids that this is a very random event and they shouldn't bring their lives to a halt because of this," said Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. "Parents have to reassure kids that they're going to do everything they can to make sure they're safe."
A good place to start is by communicating, Rego said.
"Make sure you're having a talk," he advised. "Make sure a support system is there so if people are looking anxious or stressed out, encourage them to talk about what they're experiencing or feeling."
Echoing Hilfer, Rego said, "The second thing to do is recognize that there are these events that, unfortunately, happ
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