Post-traumatic syndrome affects students due to school shootings. Actions necessary to overcome it

Narda Maren
Photo by Stanley Morales from Pexels

We are all aware of the heinous shootings in American schools, and while sadly it is not new, since the 1990s, they have increased considerably.

We could blame the lack of gun control, social violence in many areas of the country, and school bullying; in short, we could think of many reasons, but in this article, we will not focus on what causes it but on the consequences of this causes the students.

Post-traumatic syndrome

Young people and children who have been directly or indirectly affected by these events often have trauma that affects them socially and emotionally.

The organization "Mayo Clinic" defines Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a mental health illness triggered by a terrifying situation, whether you have experienced it or witnessed it. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe distress, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the situation.

Each individual is affected differently by a traumatic episode, but we must give all symptoms importance, never ignore them.

Ludmila Zaytsev, a clinical child psychologist, told The Voice of America that "shock is usually the first reaction. Then follows post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, some develop the feeling of guilt because they survived while someone they knew, maybe a friend, died."

According to Dr. Natalie Weder from Child Mind Institute, some common symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder are:

  • Difficulty sleeping and frequent nightmares about the traumatic event.
  • Detachment, irritability, and frequent headaches or stomachaches.
  • To recreate the traumatic event during the games.
  • Younger children may regress, that is, start wetting the bed again, stop talking, or become overly attached to parents.
  • Teens can feel guilty and engage in self-destructive behavior.

If you know of a child or young person who has any of these symptoms, the most sensible and advisable thing to do is to have them treated by a mental health professional.

The case of Sydney Aiello

One very shocking case was that of Sydney Aiello, 19, a survivor of the Parkland massacre, who committed suicide a year after the shooting.

According to the publication made by BBC News, Sydney's mother explained that her daughter suffered from the syndrome known as "survivor's fault" and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the massacre.

My daughter was at school the day of the shooting, although not in the same building where it happened. However, the tragedy she experienced affected her very seriously."
Sydney had trouble going to classes at the university because she was afraid of being in a classroom, and often she was sad, but she never asked for help before committing suicide."
-Cara, Sydney's mother, statements to CBS Miami.

Victor Schwartz, medical director of the Jed Foundation that works to prevent suicide among young people in the US, told NBC News that "exposure to death around you increases the risk of suicide to some degree."

It stands to reason that there is an increased danger concerning survivor guilt syndrome." - Victor Schwartz.

Anxiety about a possible shooting

Not only students who have been present or near a shooting have psychological consequences. Many young people, simply by watching the news, and knowing that a shooting occurred in another school, are anxious for fear that it will happen to them.

Although statistically, these cases are not as common as one might imagine or feel, according to Dr. Jamie Howard, Ph.D., director of the Child Mind Institute's Trauma and Resilience Service, "some anxiety is warranted, but not debilitating anxiety."

If you feel like you're more anxious than you should be, a good first step is to take a break from any media that may be focusing your attention in an unhealthy direction." -Dr. Jamie Howard, Ph.D

Actions Parents Can Take

Even though statistically that a student will be shot is low, the fear is still in force, so both parents and authorities should always be alert.

The Child Mind Institute provides some guidelines that parents can follow to help their children alleviate the anxiety caused by imagining themselves in a chaotic situation such as a school shooting.

  • Form a group of parents at school. Assess what the school needs, get involved in the drill planning process
  • Participate in political activism events or efforts to support mental health and wellness in your community.
  • Talk it over with the children. Avoiding potentially scary topics can make them more dangerous for children and teens.

Lastly, the most important thing is not to be afraid to seek professional help. A small episode of anxiety or depression can trigger an intense crisis.

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