Mass Shootings Can Impact Young Survivors’ Mental Health Far Beyond Their Childhood

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the school shooting
in Parkland, Fla., a tragedy that claimed the lives of 17 students
and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Parkland became
a catalyst for a nationwide movement for gun control as well as
legislation to prevent future gun deaths. But even with
constructive changes, mass
shootings can impact young survivors’ mental health
well into
adulthood.

In recent years, thousands of Americans’ lives and communities
have been impacted by mass shootings the Gun Violence Archive has
already counted 37
shootings
of four or more people in 2019 alone. And while the
media cycle eventually moves on, for survivors, the mental health
effects of living through severe trauma can often have long-term
impacts
, according to the American Psychological Association
(APA). As clinical psychiatrist Dr. Jean Kim, an assistant
professor at George Washington University told PsyCom, trauma such
as mass shootings can have “lifelong
and pervasive effects
on young developing psyches, both in
terms of their psychological worldview, and their physiological
systems that handle stress and anxiety.”

Dr. Melissa Brymer, director of terrorism and disaster programs
at the UCLA-Duke National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, tells
Bustle, “In some of these events like Parkland, this one year means
one year without their loved ones. We’re dealing with both trauma
and grief in many of these cases.” She says it’s important to make
the distinction “because trauma we can treat, there are good
treatments for it. Grief, we learn to adjust, we learn to find
meaning of the loved ones lost, but it’s a different course of
recovery.”

According to the National Center for
PTSD
, 28 percent of people present during a mass shooting go on
to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Other mental health disorders
including major depression,
generalized anxiety disorder, and drug and alcohol dependence are
linked to surviving mass shootings. That’s according to a 2017
Trauma, Violence, and Abuse study by clinical psychologist Sarah
Lowe and physician and epidemiologist Sandro Galea.

Lowe & Galea also found that the incidences of mental health
disorders were more severe for people who knew the shooting victims
personally, or were injured in the attack conditions that apply to
many current and graduated Parkland students. And even members of
the media who cover shootings, or physicians who treat victims are
at risk, according to Brymer. The long-term effects of PTSD are
also likely to be
worse for women, minorities, and low-income people
, according
to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA).

I
dont feel safe anywhere
anymore,” Anna Crean, a sophomore at
Marjory Stoneman Douglas told The New York Times on Wednesday,
describing how PTSD has made it difficult to handle sudden noises
and active shooter drills in school. “Fourth of July, I was at
camp, and I wasnt expecting fireworks to go off, but they did,” she
told The Times. “I had a panic attack.”

Josh Stepakoff, a board member for Women Against Gun Violence,
echoes those anxieties. At age six, Stepakoff survived multiple
gunshot wounds during an
anti-Semitic shooting
at his Jewish day camp in Southern
California in 1999. Now in his mid-twenties, he says the effects of
the trauma have evolved as he’s grown.

“As a kid, anytime I heard sirens, anytime I heard helicopters,
saw police offers, anything like that I would freak out. I would
kind of have a full blown panic attack and I would have to isolate
myself,” Stepakoff tells Bustle. “Now I worry about my safety a
lot, I worry about the safety of the people around me, am I going
to be able to do the same thing if I was confronted by a similar
situation again.”

Survivors, along with first-responders, families, and even just
people following the story closely, can have lasting mental health
impacts, according to Dr. Brymer. Especially around a one-year mark
like Parkland’s, she says, it’s important to provide strong support
networks to those directly and peripherally affected.

Source: FS – All – Entertainment – News 2
Mass Shootings Can Impact Young Survivors’ Mental Health Far Beyond Their Childhood