There is nothing more upsetting than switching on the T.V. or radio to hear about a devastating school shooting. In 2018, thirty-five people in the U.S. died in school shootings, with many losing their lives in the February 14th shooting in Parkland Florida. That number doesn’t include the 79 people injured during these country-wide school shootings, and the many more that were deeply affected and are living with mental health issues. These student mental health concerns include PTSD and depression due to survivor’s guilt and the heartbreaking loss of friends and faculty.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting occurred just over a year ago, yet the Parkland community continues to mourn over the effects of that tragedy. Within just one week, two Parkland survivors took their own lives. Sydney Aiello, a 19-year-old graduate and a senior at the time of the mass shooting, died of an apparent suicide after struggling with PTSD and survivors guilt after living through the deaths of her classmates. The second survivor who committed suicide has been identified as 16-year-old sophomore, Calvin Desir. These suicides have shaken the community to the core, and have prompted people to take a closer look at the well-being of students and their mental health.
According to the Cut, “this is not the first time we’ve seen the toll of experiencing the trauma of a school shooting can take.” After the Columbine incident, a student and a mother of a student who was injured both took their own lives, and six students attempted suicide after a tragic school shooting in Ohio that left three students dead.
3 Student Mental Health Concerns to Look Out For
The Daily Beast explains, “Witnessing a school shooting is especially traumatic given the malleable shape of the brain of school children. Younger pupils are developing foundational skills that will allow them to learn more complex skills, while older students are balancing emotional and intellectual maturation through puberty.” With this being said, there are a few student mental health concerns educators, school administrators, and parents should be looking out for after a school shooting or school tragedy.
Multiple triggers such as smells, sounds, or even a memorial, could initiate a downward spiral for somebody who is suffering from depression, PTSD, or “survivor’s guilt”. Below each are defined:
Depression, or major depressive disorder, is defined as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. “Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.” If you notice your students no longer care about their coursework, are absent often, and are uncharacteristically withdrawn, they may be experiencing depression or another mental health disorder.
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is common for those who have witnessed gun violence. It is defined as “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.” According to The Daily Beast, PTSD affects the area in the brain that processes stress and emotion, which is why many survivors report to feeling “numb” and are unable to respond in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy.
According to the Cut, survivor’s guilt by itself is not a diagnosis. It is a phenomenon that occurs involving the belief or question about one’s worth and one’s value. Students may ask “why did I survive when other people did not?” Or “why did I deserve to live and others did not?” Survivor’s guilt triggers these questions and students can blame themselves for not doing something more to save a friend or faculty member. These distortions are often linked to mood changes and depression, and are associated directly with PTSD.
Teachers and school administrators spend the most time with school-aged children who may be suffering from depression or PTSD after a detrimental tragedy.
Alert Solutions recommends keeping open communication with both students and their parents as often as possible, so teachers and administrators can effectively address a student’s mental health concern. Keeping a lookout for any signs or symptoms of depression, PTSD, or any other mental health issue is extremely important.Sharing any and every concern could end up saving a life.
Rave Mobile Safety recently acquired Alert Solutions, which allows us to share new school safety products such as the Rave Panic Button. The Rave Panic button allows users to alert 9-1-1 of an emergency and simultaneously send notifications to people on-site of the incident with just the push of a button. It has been proven to shorten response times, which could be a matter of life or death in school shooter situation.
Interested in learning more? Feel free to schedule a free consultation today.