How do you go back to school in a place of bloodshed? This is an unanswered question appearing in newspapers, magazines, online, and across social media platforms. Parents and students in Florida have a long recovery ahead of them. “The shooting activated students’ ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response, said trauma therapist Susanne Babbel, Ph.D. Those children are traumatized…. The child might feel from now on that school is unsafe, being in crowds is dangerous, sounds of people are a sign something awful will happen. For some going back to school might be healing, for others they might have to go back one hour at a time, and unfortunately finding an alternative facility might be needed for some as well.”
A tragedy such as this reaches far beyond the students and families of Florida. Parents nationwide are making inquiries, asking questions, and voicing concerns. Since 2010, the number of parents who fear for their child’s safety in school has not only tripled but reached from the depths of the inner city to our safest most prestigious communities. Even preschoolers as young as three and four recognize police cars, can identify ambulances, and can look into the eyes of someone on a screen and know something bad happened. Most parents – not wanting to lie to their children, try and explain the ugliness and cruelty without frightening them. They want to give them enough information to protect themselves yet avoid creating a scenario where they live each day in fear. Improving Lives Counseling Services stresses the importance of examining the emotional well-being of children, teens, adults, and seniors. Regular mental health check-ups can identify warning signs – averting suffering and long-term care.
Parents know their children best, followed by teachers, neighbors, and extended family. Knowing the signs and when to act is important. If your child is glued to the news of the recent school shootings, ask why they are interested and if they are afraid for themselves, or their friends. If they appear unresponsive, try redirecting their attention with personal questions which require deep thought; ask what friends are saying – in school and online – to determine who is influencing their trend of thought. Approximately 50% of chronic mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24. “The average delay between when symptoms first appear and intervention, is 8-10 years. Can school shootings in another state trigger mental health conditions in children in Oklahoma? Yes. The mental and emotional effect the bombings in Oklahoma City and 9-11 had on adults nationwide is equivalent to the effect school shootings can have on children.
Surviving students praise the effect crisis counseling, community, nationwide support, and activism has had in directing them toward healing, yet they say life will never be normal again. Many say they will never forget what they saw, heard, and experienced. This could be true for your child, adolescent, or teen. Florida students live streamed and recorded during the emergency. These videos and pictures (many disturbing) are available online for your children to view across multiple media platforms.
Trauma comes in all forms: a classroom brawl, hallway bullying, the arrest of a student, or a school lockdown. Today’s children are aware of reports of physical, mental, and sexual abuse in schools. Many are frightened, yet fear admitting it. Others think ignoring or blocking things out will make everything ok. The psychiatric community is not ready to diagnosis PTSD in Florida’s surviving students, however, many report symptoms similar to those diagnosed in servicemen and women returning from war-zones.
Improving Lives Counseling Services’ team of professional counselors and therapists have the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to screen, access, diagnosis, and treat mental and behavioral disorders. Untreated, the effects of this traumatic event – although in another state – can cause anxiety, stress, depression, physiological, and psychological pain. Scheduling a mental health check-up or screening doesn’t mean something is wrong, it means you care about the overall health and wellness of the people you care about the most. Call us to learn more.