This article was originally published by Dallas Morning News on October 7, 2021.
Following the shooting at Mansfield Timberview High School on Wednesday morning, many students, parents, and educators may be wondering about how this event could affect their mental health or that of others they are close to.
Julie Kaplow is the executive director of the Trauma and Grief Center at the Hackett Center for Mental Health located in Houston. The center is a part of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a statewide organization focused on research for mental health policy change.
She said that there are numerous factors that can determine what an individual’s reaction to traumatic events could be. Two of these include proximity to the event and previous trauma.
“In general, it is typical for any teenager after a shooting to experience higher levels of anxiety, concerns about going back to school, potentially even clinging onto the caregiver or parent, more than usual,” Kaplow said. “You may even see things like differences in eating or sleeping.”
There can also be emotional numbing, meaning students not wanting to talk about what happened, and a change in world view, meaning believing that the world is a dangerous place and there is nothing to be done about it.
Those who were in close proximity to the event could experience post-traumatic stress, which can manifest in teenagers as nightmares, trouble sleeping, and re-experiencing the event.
Kaplow said that her biggest advice she has for parents or caregivers is to recreate a sense of safety, security and stability at home for teenagers.
“So helping kids understand what the school is going to do to make sure that this doesn’t happen again and what are the adults around them going to do to protect them,” Kaplow said.
For stability, Kaplow said sticking to a daily routine at school and at home can help teenagers feel some sense of control. She also said that supervision of what media kids consume is also important because graphic scenes on the television can trigger the student.
Kaplow recommends these resources by the National Children Traumatic Stress Network for students and parents:
Tips for Parents on Media Coverage
Parent Guidelines for Helping Youth after the Recent Shooting (Also in Spanish)
Tip Sheet for Youth Talking to Journalists about the Shooting
Talking to Children about the Shooting
Here are some other resources for students, parents, and educators addressing mental health and trauma.
Psychology Today, Therapy Den, and the American Psychological Association (APA) have locators to find mental health professionals that could help students through trauma. These websites allow individuals to search by specialization and location.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a 24/7 Disaster Distress Hotline for immediate crisis counseling. The number to call or text is 1-800-985-5990.
Both SAMHSA and the National Children Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) have downloadable guides that walk parents through how to help their kids cope after a traumatic event.
AfterTheInjury.org is a website for parents whose children have been injured.
The NCTSN also has a toolkit for educators on tips for working with traumatized children.
The American School Counselor Organization has a round-up of all its information on crisis and school shootings.
SchoolSafety.gov is a federal website that has guides, case studies, and reports on all elements of school safety including school shootings, mental health and emergency planning.
The full article is available online here.