MUSC-based team works quickly amid uptick in mass shootings

April 16, 2021
Screen grab of newspaper web page that says Tragedy at Fed Ex and shows people hugging.
A screen grab from the website for the IndyStar shows people hugging after a shooting rampage in Indianapolis.

When news broke of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, a team of experts several states away sprang into action. “This is a fast-moving situation that is changing rapidly,” said Dean Kilpatrick, Ph.D., director of the National Mass Violence Victimization Resource Center.

The center, based in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, serves as a clearinghouse for information about - and resources for - preventing and responding to mass violence. Unfortunately, its services are in demand again.

“There have already been a number of mass violence incidents this year due to the relaxation of social distancing as society opens back up after the pandemic,” Kilpatrick said. 

There were mass shootings last month in Atlanta-area spas and a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. The latest incident, in Indianapolis, involved a man who shot and killed eight people and himself. Police haven’t said what might have led to that deadly rampage.

Kilpatrick’s team has developed a rough protocol to get information where it’s most needed as quickly as possible. “From prior experience, we know that what most people need shortly after a mass violence incident happens is accurate information, helpful tips, access to self-help and stress management tools. They also need contact information about resources and how they may be able to get assistance at a later time.”

This morning, the MUSC-based team knew people in Indianapolis could use all of that. So it came up with a plan to reach out to officials and agencies there, giving them immediate access to the NMVVRC’s resources and expertise. 

The center also posted tip sheets and self-help materials on social media and shared information about an app it developed called Transcend NMVC. The app was designed for survivors of mass violence, but Kilpatrick said it can also be useful for other people who were affected indirectly or even just stressed out.

The NMVVRC is working with national partners as well, including the American Hospital Association, the National Governors Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to get those resources to as many people as possible. 

The NMVVRC itself was established in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice to give victims and survivors access to evidence-based information and services, study ways to prevent mass violence, prepare communities to deal with its aftermath and bring together agencies so survivors will have the help they need. 

The demand for that assistance continues to grow – not only among people directly affected by mass violence but also others, near and far. “One thing we have discovered is that a new mass violence incident rubs salt in the wounds of anyone who has been through a mass violence incident previously and has much broader ripple effects on entire communities because of extensive media coverage,” Kilpatrick said.

About the Author

Helen Adams