How reliving the January 6 insurrection can take a toll on mental health – The Hill

How reliving the January 6 insurrection can take a toll on mental health – The Hill

Story at a glance


  • The House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6 are revealing graphic details of the day the US Capitol was attacked by a violent mob.

  • Reliving that day can be traumatic for lawmakers, law enforcement and Americans across the country.

  • Incidents of mass violence can disturb a person’s collective sense of order and safety and may even impact those with no personal connections to the event.

Reliving traumatic events can be painful and it’s a position many Americans may find themselves in this week as The House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6 are revealing graphic details of the day the US Capitol was attacked by a violent mob.

Beginning on Sunday, lawmakers in Washington began sharing new details about January 6, 2021 through live, televised hearings that include never-before-seen footage of the violent attack on the Capitol, graphic images and gripping testimony.

The impact was felt by those testifying, including Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who was injured during the riot, telling lawmakers the Capitol was like a “war scene” and described slipping on others’ blood and being in hand-to-hand combat for hours.

House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) also hinted on the mental impact the insurrection has had on lawmakers, “the cycle has just been moved on, but it has deeply, deeply affected lawmaking, policy making. It has impacted the actual legislative process, the aftermath of it. And it’s very quiet, it’s not spoken about.”


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However, trauma from January 6 isn’t limited to those who experienced the violent mob first-hand but can extend to all Americans.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says incidents of mass violence disturb a person’s collective sense of order and safety and may even impact those with no personal connections to the event.

Feelings such as overwhelming anxiety, trouble sleeping and other depression-like symptoms are common responses to incidents of mass violence and can occur before, during or after the event.

Injured victims as well as bystanders are at risk for emotional distress due to incidents of mass violence, as well as their friends and family members, first responders and recovery workers and community members that live near the event.

Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) also acknowledged witnessing the events of January 6 — in person or on television — was traumatic. Wexton put out a statement that included trauma and mental health resources for her constituents, saying, “It is okay to not feel okay. What’s important is that you take the time to take care of yourself and know that help is available.”

One lawmaker did just that, with Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee (D) sharing that regular sessions with a psychiatrist and meditation techniques helped him deal with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, developed in the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol riot.

Reliving painful memories can cause a range of emotions but recognizing them for what they are and naming them can help, according to Mental Health Alliance (MHA).

“These are responses to trauma. Hundreds of police officers, members of Congress, staffers and journalists experienced a harrowing insurrection while millions of us watched the disturbing events unfold in real time,” explained Schroeder Stribling, president and CEO of MHA, in a statement released on the one-year anniversary or January 6.

Stribling went on to say that intense emotions are a normal and valid response to a traumatic event and that Americans are not alone in experiencing these feelings.

Taking a break from the news cycle can also help, as the constant replay of news stories about a disaster or traumatic event can increase stress and anxiety and make some people relive the event over and over.

In order to cope with traumatic events, SAMHSA encourages Americans to engage in relaxing activities to help heal and move on, get enough good quality sleep and understand that disasters can have lifelong impacts.

Published on Jun. 13, 2022

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