Newsroom > DHHS News Release

January 6, 2011

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047

DHHS Offers Suggestions in Wake of Shooting

Sound bites from Scot L. Adams, Ph.D., have been added:

Lincoln – Many people may be affected by yesterday’s events at Millard South High School, according to Scot L. Adams, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

“I want to extend my sympathies to the families and students who have been affected by this sad situation,” he said.

“Families, friends, first responders, students and even those who just hear the news through the media may have trouble sleeping, concentrating, eating or remembering even simple tasks,” he said. “Feelings of shock, sorrow, numbness, fear, anger, disillusionment or grief are common and hopefully will pass in time. Families of victims or anyone on the scene that day may be surprised by their intense and changing emotions after such a traumatic event.

“People try to understand why such a terrible thing as the shootings at Millard South would take place, and may feel that the world is a more dangerous place today than it was yesterday,” Adams said.

The following tips may help people cope:

  • Take time now to “feel it.” Don’t push your feelings away. Shock and denial are typical responses to traumatic events. Reactions vary from one person to another.

  • Talk to others about it. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Mental health officials say that many people in distress need someone just to listen to them. Support groups can be helpful.

  • Strive for balance. When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that viewpoint by reminding yourself of people and events that are meaningful and comforting, even encouraging.

  • It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living. At times, individuals can get stuck or have difficulty managing intense reactions. Signs and symptoms of distress can occur days and weeks after such an event. A licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, can assist in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward.

  • Try to limit the amount of news you take in, whether it’s from the Internet, television, newspapers or magazines. The images can be very powerful in reawakening your feeling of distress.

  • Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest, and avoid alcohol and caffeine. If you have trouble sleeping, try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.

Physical symptoms, like headaches, nausea and chest pain, may accompany extreme stress.

“It will take some time for people to recover their sense of equilibrium,” Adams said. “Over time, the caring support of family, friends, church and other supports can help lessen the emotional impact.”

Anyone experiencing a severe emotional reaction to the shooting can contact the Nebraska Family Helpline at 1-888-866-8660. Other mental health providers are listed in the yellow pages of the Omaha phone book or go to the Department of Health and Human Services website for its Network of Care at for more resources. 


Note: Some of the information in this news release comes from the American Psychological Association.