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Navigating anxiety in the wake of Tuesday's violence

Mental health experts say it's completely normal to feel anxiety after violence close to home this week and recommend reaching out and checking in with loved ones.

MAINE, USA — Maine is one of the safest states in the nation; however, when violence happens close to home, it can create serious feelings of fear and anxiety, even for those not directly connected to recent shootings.

"Events like this don't happen, thank goodness, frequently in Maine," Dr. Jeff Barkin, a Portland-based psychiatrist, said. "But when it happens to us, on our own soil, it can really shake you up. And that's a really normal thing to feel, fear anger, and concern." 

On Tuesday, Maine experienced one of its most violent days in recent memory, when three people were shot while driving on I-295 in Yarmouth, and four people were found murdered in a Bowdoin home. 

"Situations like this can really can trigger a level of discomfort, worry, and anxiety that we haven't experienced before," Wendy St. Pierre, an assistant professor of mental health and human services at the University of Maine at Augusta, said. 

St. Pierre and Barkin agree it's important to check in with yourself and try to understand your emotions, and how you may be responding to this week's event.

"How am I doing? How am I feeling? Is this starting to bother me? Am I thinking about it more? Am I dwelling on it? Am I looking for every piece of information I can find about it? Or am I completely avoiding every piece of information about it?" St. Pierre said. "All of those pieces are clues to us. And the best way is to know yourself and see if you're behaving or feeling differently than you normally have. That could be a sign of some anxiety triggered by these situations."

Mental health professionals say when difficult events like this happen, it's important to take time to connect with others and step away from screens, and news of what's happened.

"When we become so consumed that we can't tear ourselves away from our smartphones or our TVs and devices, then we have a problem. And, in fact, not tearing ourselves away from those devices prevents us from coming closer to other people," Barkin said. 

Barkin and St. Pierre say discussing your feelings with others can help you process and navigate the feelings of anxiety. 

"A big piece is just talking with someone. Talking with someone that we trust, talking with someone that just can give us a listening ear. Because we may feel like we're the only ones feeling that way. And reaching out we often find that, 'Oh, this is triggering these similar feelings in other people,' which really normalizes it, and can help us process it better," St. Pierre said. 

"If you have kids [or] family members, just check-in. It causes anxiety. People get scared. And when we have connections, we can reduce that anxiety." Barkin said. "Give yourself the space to just feel, because whatever you're feeling, it's okay." 

If you or someone you know is struggling, help is out there. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 9-8-8. 

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