On Feb. 14, 2018, a school shooting occurred at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. The shooting resulted in seventeen deaths and fourteen non-fatal injuries, although the number of students and teachers traumatized by this event is unnumbered.
The psychiatric definition of trauma is an experience that produces psychological injury or pain. For the shooting that happened at Parkland, trauma became a part of many lives. Outside the school, many parents waited in anticipation. Would they see their children at the end of the day? Would they get the opportunity to hold their children again?
For many, the relationship between anxiety and trauma is deeply intertwined. While it comes in many different forms and has many different symptoms, anxiety can create a sense of despair for an individual. For any individual who goes through a traumatic experience, the chances of that person developing an anxiety disorder of some form increases greatly.
Trauma is different for everyone. Many have heard of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder); the type of trauma that may cause PTSD differs for each person and each scenario. For many, PTSD is directly associated with the military and service in some form. But the reality is that trauma is frequently more local and apparent than we know or realize. For high school age students, trauma can come in the form of an abusive home life or bullying in the school environment. Unfortunately, now many high school and college age students have to factor in the reality of a mass shooting in the school they are attending.
The sad reality is that a shooting can happen anywhere, and it could potentially happen here. Somethings that we can do if interacting with a person who has experienced a traumatic event or in the unfortunate event that it could happen here.
Review AU’s Lockdown Protocol: Students who have survived mass school shootings have made the observation that while many times the shooter is a student at their school, this doesn't always mean the shooter is in your vicinity. Know your protocol! In knowing your protocol you can help keep yourself and others safe.
Be Supportive: In interacting with peers who have traumatic experiences, being supportive is very important. Being a source of comfort and support can give a sense of ease to those who have been through so much.
Refer to a Professional: If a peer gives you information about their experiences that seems to negatively influence their self perception, desire to self-harm, or harm others, refer them to a professional. Remember, we don’t have degrees yet, so we (as peers) can’t give professional help.