It is with a heavy heart that I write about the violence that has so recently devastated our nation. In one week, there has been three mass shootings: Gilroy, CA, El Paso TX, and Dayton, Ohio. I can’t help but wonder who will be next? These mass shootings were not at schools this time but there have been notable cases in the past: Sandyhook Elementary School, Columbine High School, Stoneman Douglas High School to name a few. As reported on Thought.Com there was a study of the class of 2000 and CBS News found that, while 96 percent of students felt safe in school, 53 percent said that a shooting was possible in their school, 22 percent of students knew classmates who regularly carried weapons to campus. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there was an average of 47 violent deaths at schools from the 1992/1993 school year through 2015/2016. That’s over a thousand deaths in under 25 years. That is too many!
As our community prepares to return to the classroom soon, we must look at this issue with the utmost care. We are responsible as parents, educators, counselors to help our children deal with the aftermath of this type of violence. But what if we prevented it in the first place? Prevention happens when people care about what is happening with kids and notice when they are sliding into negative, alienating, divisive thoughts and feelings. Warning signs are often present before an act of violence. Some examples of warning signs are:
- Sudden lack of interest
- Obsessions with violent or hateful games or videos
- Depression and mood swings
- Writing that shows despair and isolation
- Lack of anger management skills
- Talking about death or bringing weapons to school
- Violence towards animal
Prevention isn’t just for adults; kids can help too. We must teach our children to look out for and take care of each other as well as these other ways that kids can be supportive and aid in prevention:
- Avoid being a part of violence by standing up to peer pressure.
- Talk to a trusted adult – teacher, coach, parent, counselor when you are concerned about another person’s negative and potentially harmful behavior.
- Listen with curiosity and not judgment about what the other person thinks and feels.
- Immediately report when you have awareness or knowledge of weapons on campus.
- Walk away from bullying behavior – avoid confrontation.
Sometimes it isn’t possible to stop violence from occurring so we must also be prepared to manage the feelings after a traumatic event. For many who witnessed the violence whether in person or via news media there can be a traumatic response. For those actively involved in the violence they can suffer from symptoms of traumatic response for years to come. For those who were not there but have learned of these events via media there can be what is called Secondary Trauma. Either way some symptoms to monitor for are:
- Disruptions in sleep
- Disruptions in eating behavior
- Increased mood problems like feeling down or overly worried.
- Having nightmares or flashbacks from what you have seen or experienced.
- Feeling preoccupied with the events that were experienced or witnessed
- Unusual fatigue
- Feeling confused or disoriented; finding it difficult to make decisions.
- Avoidance of certain places or people.
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these issues, and the symptoms are significantly distressing then please think about reaching out to a therapist to help you work through the trauma. We at Treehouse Family Counseling Services have advanced training in helping children and their families manage the path of trauma recovery. We are here to help.
Mary Ruth Cross, MS, MFT, NCC, RPT-S
CEO/Owner Treehouse Family Counseling Services