• Atoosa H. Bigvand

The Impact of Mass Shootings on Children's Mental Health


One of the major tragedies befalling the United States involving the American population is mass shootings. Among all mass shootings, we see school shootings resulting in children being exposed to them the most. Many studies aim to evaluate the clinical presentation of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children by highlighting the clinical course of a school shooting survivor. There are several traumatic events that can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, exposure to shootings may place someone at exceptionally high risk for developing symptoms of PTSD.


Shootings are sudden, unexpected, and violent. These events immensely affect individuals, especially children and adolescents. As a result, survivors often feel fearful, anxious, and powerless, which can contribute to symptoms of PTSD that may be experienced after a shooting. Anxiety disorders, panic attacks, substance use disorders, phobias, and other issues were also reported in some studies following shootings.


There are few studies about the consequences of shootings on children's mental health. Researches usually point to three broad categories: before, during, and after the shooting. What individuals carry with them to these events is their demographic characteristics. For example, people with preexisting mental health problems are more vulnerable to depression and other psychological issues after a mass shooting. Additionally, those lacking family cohesion and financial support experience a more severe form of PTSD. During the shooting, those who are in greater proximity to the violence, such as being exposed to someone being shot, dead bodies, or injured people, greatly increase the risk of PTSD. After the event, social resources can make a world of difference for survivors. Emotional support (feeling like people are there for you), informational support (knowing what resources are there), and other forms of support (such as money and physical assistance) are things that can be done to mitigate the lasting effects of the devastating situation for them.


Parents should be alert for behavioral changes following shootings such as increased clinginess in a preschooler, complaints of headaches or stomachaches in youth, or withdrawal in a teenager. Irritability, greater susceptibility to crying, and difficulty with sleep are among the many symptoms that should raise a red flag if they persist longer than a month. All these behaviors are often an indication that a child needs help. In this case, medical and mental health care treatment by trained professionals is required.

 

Speaking Plainly:

  • Several traumatic events can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, exposure to shootings may place someone at particularly high risk for developing symptoms of PTSD.

  • Researches usually point to three broad categories: before, during, and after the shooting when assessing the consequences on a child’s mental health.

  • After these kinds of traumatic events, mental health aid with the help of professionals is advised.