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12-09 How school shootings affect students

Posted in Anxiety, PTSD, stress

How school shootings affect students

Time and again, mass shootings invade our media and weigh down our hearts. A large proportion of these tragic events take place within our most sacred institutions – most notably our schools. As the conversation continually repeats, research and news outlets have shined a spotlight on a typically overshadowed aspect of these catastrophic events: the victims. For students coping with the aftermath of serious and traumatic experiences like these, many aspects must be taken into account.

General and specific effects

In a 2003 article by Karin Jordan, Ph.D., the associate professor from George Fox University compiled various sources that explore the deeper consequences of school shootings. For example, multiple studies have estimated that between 14 and 35 percent of students who were exposed to a shooting incident or other distressing injuries will develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jordan further elaborated that the likelihood of experiencing a mental health disorder due to a shooting is based on key factors a person may possess. These individualized elements include internal cognitive resources, resiliency, previous exposure to violence, spiritual ideologies, overall well-being and having access to other social buffers like appraisal support and positive thoughts.

Reviewing past shootings

In 2007, Scientific Editor Fran H. Norris, Ph.D., from the National Center for PTSD at Dartmouth Medical School, detailed a number of past school shootings and the community response to their outcomes. Specific examples included:

  • 1998: As a result of a student opening fire in a school cafeteria in Springfield, Oregon, two people were killed and 26 others were injured. Follow-up questionnaires revealed that those physically closer to the shooting reported higher post-traumatic stress, dissociation and problems expressing emotion than other students.
  • 1999: The Columbine High School shootings resulted in the death of 12 students and one teacher as well as the wounding of 20 others. Although interviews with the victims were suspended, participants collectively reported feelings of numbness, strong negative sensations and rumination over what they could have done differently to prevent the attack.
  • 2001: Students at two San Diego, California, high schools were responsible for a total of two deaths and the injury of 18 others in the month of March. After interviewing 85 key informants, researchers discovered pervasive symptoms in the community that included distress, resentment of the media, desire to avoid or forget the incident and anger towards each other.

Personal accounts of pain

Although recent shootings lack more in-depth scientific observations, news reports have interviewed survivors and recorded personal responses to their school’s attack. For example, in the wake of the 2015 Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, student Ana Boylan said, “In all honesty, I feel sorry for him. I feel bad for him. I just wish he could’ve not done that.”

Even Joseph Monti, a victim of the Roseburg High School shooting in 2006, still deals with the pains of his experience. He said, “I don’t hate him, but I don’t think he understands the full consequences and outcomes of what he’s done.”

School shootings are catastrophic events that feature extreme violence and produce widespread trauma to a localized area. As these tragedies continue to occur, the scope of their impact also permeates to a national scale. For adolescents severely affected by a traumatic experience such as these, Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego offers a safe haven to rest, recover and recharge your well-being. Contact a representative online or by phone anytime to learn about your treatment options.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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