This is not about guns.

It is also not about gun violence, and how, in the United States, the number of mass shootings has outpaced the number of days this year.

And it is not about the fact that such violence isn't a long-distance, out-of-sight-out-of-mind kind of thing, either, because it touches us all, in one way or another, at some point in time.

I know that truth all too well.

Instead, this is a piece about the effects of a country caught in a vicious and repeating cycle of violence and the trauma that we all suffer every time we now numbingly watch the images and hear the news of yet another "incident" at a school, a shopping center or a sanctuary.

What do you think happens in our brains every time we hear of yet another traumatic event where human beings turn violent against others to the extent that many die?

Do you think we are able to separate our hearts from our heads? That we can tap away from that post or turn the channel, only to forget, as if it wasn't real?

That is not what happens at all, actually.

Ask combat veterans who witnessed or have been directly or indirectly involved in the heinous reality of war inflicted upon themselves and comrades alongside of whom they serve and whom they love what has happened inside their brains now that they are witnesses to such atrocities.

They will tell you that they do not pick up and carry on with their lives in a business-as-usual kind of way.

They all tell you that they are different now.

They will tell you that they have nightmares; that they have a hard time leaving their house; that loud noises and sudden movements frighten them; that they find it difficult getting close to people they love, and trusting, communicating, problem-solving and resting; that they are depressed, anxious and afraid.

They will tell you that they will never be the same.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health problem that many people develop after experiencing or being exposed to a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, sexual assault or some other trauma.

One doesn't have to be a direct victim of trauma or an eyewitness to it in order to suffer from PTSD.

If you learn of a trauma indirectly as it pertains to a close relative or a friend, or if you experience repeated exposure to trauma and the details of trauma, you may suffer from PTSD.

After a shooting at my school when I was in the eighth grade that left one teacher dead and another mortally wounded, a simple stroll through the mall with friends would become terrifying at the sound of a popping balloon.

We didn't even bother with firecrackers for years after.

Then, we were forced to see the events played out again and again on the local news and CNN for weeks.

Whether we were in the room where it happened, or just in the vicinity, we were exposed to trauma. We all suffered as a result.

With mass shootings happening faster than each stroke of midnight, and with 24-hour cable news networks, real-time Twitter feeds, and "marked safe" posts on Facebook, we are all exposed repeatedly to graphic video footage, as if we were there ourselves, again and again and again.

I don't know who is asking, but I will ...

What are the effects of these traumatic events, to eyewitness video accounts, and the repeated exposure to such horrors on a nation, a culture, a society, a community, a congregation, a family, a marriage or a child?

Who of us isn't exposed multiple times each week to the gruesome realities of the unnecessary and violent deaths of human beings not all that far away from us?

We are, I believe, a nation of people not processing well enough the trauma all around us, and, as a result, we are becoming victims ourselves, sufferers of societal PTSD.

We meet the criteria for diagnosis.

But even more importantly, we are suffering the effects.

We typically hear the word metabolism used to indicate the rate at which our bodies burn calories.

Our intellectual and our emotional centers -- our psyches -- also have a metabolism, which is the extent to which we are able to come to terms in an emotionally and psychologically congruent way with the events of our lives, including trauma.

We are not metabolizing our trauma well. We are slow to return to baseline. We are gaining the weight of the burden of our nation's experiences.

We are far from becoming desensitized or hardened to the trauma. Rather, we are suffering its effects, and we don't even know it.

We are, in fact, a nation of victims.

We are a nation of survivors.

Bullet-proof backpacks. Active shooter training. Knowing where the exits are. Understanding how to run in a zig-zag pattern to make it harder to get hit.

Our children shouldn't worry about these things. And neither should their parents.

But they do. We all do.

It is a part of who we are now.

And the research shows that this normalization is not a good thing. The more times a person is exposed to violence, the higher the likelihood of long-term behavioral health issues.

When we all are exposed, it stands to reason that we all are at risk for such health concerns.

We are in trouble.

There is an anxiety latent in our society. It's not just veterans who need help. We all do.

Dr. Jonathan Eric Carroll, KLPC, NCPC, NCCE, is a state-licensed mental health professional, is an ACPE Psychotherapist, and is the Founder of The Clinic @ The Montgomery in downtown Owensboro. Visit www.themontgomeryclinic.com. He also co-created and co-hosts "You'll Die Trying," a podcast available everywhere.

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