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Violence in D.C. could have impacts on mental health, experts say

Mental health and recent violence
Posted at 2:45 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 20:23:00-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Dramatic images from our nation's capital may be putting a strain on the mental health of some Americans.

COVID-19 has already caused immense problems for people emotionally and financially. With the start of the New Year underway, many were hopeful for the future, then watched in horror as violence unfolded.

Smashed glass, gunshots and lawmakers trying to escape were the images coming out of D.C. as protests over the Electoral College vote certification became violent. The vast majority of those at the Capitol were peaceful, but the violent actions of a few shocked the country as they watched from their homes.

The anxiety and mental anguish could be painful for many Americans.

“We are watching a traumatic event unfold, and in some way, it impacts all of us. Even though we weren't directly in that vicinity, we are traumatized just from witnessing the events unfold,” said Dr. Sarah Williams, a therapist with Covenant Way Clinical Counseling from Chesapeake.

Williams said it’s especially tough as COVID-19 has already had a financial and emotional toll on many.

“One thing that's been difficult is to hold onto hope, because hope is what gets us through these difficult times,” Williams said. “We are all pretty much still in shock. There's a level of security that we feel in the United States, particularly about our nation's capital. We saw how vulnerable our nation's capital is and that increases our level of insecurity and vulnerability, which increases anxiety in all of us.”

Williams says right now, people need self-care.

“Make sure that you put yourself first, nurture your needs, try to eat well, try to get your rest, do those self-care, things that are so vital to your wellness. That includes exercise, having a balanced meal and make an appointment with your therapist," she said.

To learn more about affordable counseling near you, click here. You can also visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's national helpline or view the CDC's mental health resources here.