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Charleston church shooting survivors at risk for PTSD, UB expert says

Release Date: June 18, 2015

“Putting people on TV and having them re-live what they just went through over and over again is not only not helpful, but it increases the likelihood that they will have more problems down the road.”
Steven Dubovsky, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry
University at Buffalo
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Survivors of the Charleston church shooting are at risk for PTSD, according to Steven Dubovsky. Photo: Douglas Levere

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A third of people exposed to a traumatic event – like a shooting – will develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

And that is why the way survivors deal with the aftermath of the Charleston church shooting is critical, according to Steven Dubovsky, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo.

“Putting people on TV and having them re-live what they just went through over and over again is not only not helpful, but it increases the likelihood that they will have more problems down the road,” he said. “The chance of getting PTSD is increased by approaches that simply force you to re-live the trauma.”

Instead, said Dubovsky, an expert on post-traumatic stress who has studied the Columbine, Colorado. shootings and interviewed survivors of the tragedy, those directly impacted should support one another and seek professional help.

Re-living what happened in a controlled, private manner is helpful, he said, but not with an interviewer prompting you. That is when depression, substance abuse, medical problems and PTSD can develop.

“It is much more helpful for an individual to get personal help to manage their emotions,” he said. “That’s the best way for them to come out of this on the other end with the least amount of illness. When survivors are interviewed on TV it evokes more distress without resolving anything.”

To find UB faculty experts on other topics — including issues trending in the news — visit UB’s Faculty Experts website.

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