We Need to Talk About Mental Health Concerns Following a School Shooting

It deeply saddens me that there was another school shooting yesterday in Nashville, Tennessee at a Christian private school. Six people died, three of which were 9-year-old children. The suspect was killed on the scene, but there is still a lot left unknown about the motive of the crime.

Mass shootings have become such a big part of our society that we often forget about how traumatic they are, especially for children. Maybe it is because we have become desensitized to the violence, but we need to remind ourselves that it is so important to ensure that our children have the space to discuss any emotions they may be experiencing so that we can keep an open dialogue.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has great free resources on how to talk to your children about school shootings, while giving you resources on the impact of school shootings on children as they grow up.

Youth.gov also has a great page with resources on how to support youth after a mass shooting.

While there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to prevent mass shootings, we need to take the time to focus on our mental health and the mental health of our children. Being able to process these events is so important to aid in healing.

When children experience a traumatic event, the entire family is affected. Often, family members
have different experiences around the event and different emotional responses to the traumatic
event. Recognizing each others’ experience of the event, and helping each other cope with possible
feelings of fear, helplessness, anger, or even guilt in not being able to protect children from a
traumatic experience, is an important component of a family’s emotional recovery.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Research has shown that children who are impacted by a school or mass shooting may exhibit heightened concerns over their safety or frequent retelling of the event, while adolescents may exhibit more self-destructive or accident-prone behavior.

Mass shootings (and especially school shootings) have a big impact on the wider community. Children who may not have been directly impacted by the shooting may experience second-hand trauma. Schools have long been seen as a “safe place” for youth, and when that sense of security is challenged, this can cause great stress for our children. Taking the time to talk to your children about the shooting that occurred yesterday can create an opportunity for you to share your own difficult emotional experiences and create further trust with your children. Taking the time to talk now can prevent lasting trauma later on.

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