The Aftermath

Reports of violence heighten anxiety among students

Olivia Pfannenschmidt, Chief Copy Editor

Seventy-five percent of people ranging from age 15 to 21 expressed that mass shootings are a significant source of anxiety that consumes their life, according to “What Gun Violence Does to Our Mental Health.”
Seventy-five percent.
Isn’t that number far too high a percent of teens who have immense fears or worry regarding mass shootings? Not only stress or anxiety, but also PTSD, emotional distress, depression or even non-functional anxiety.
Columbine High School, 1999.
Two gunmen entered the school, took the lives of 13 innocent people, severely hurt 21 people, and after, took their own lives, according to “What Gun Violence Does to Our Mental Health.” This, a traumatic, yet real event affected far more than the injured students and staff. This tragic event touched the hearts of many — families, the community, and other communities, schools and many others, as fear inevitably spread.
School shootings and gun violence can spur various complications, and among them, psychological changes. The families of students involved, students who were in the building they found safe, or administration who only ever thought about this tragedy as a reality during their training, forever have unforgettable reminders of that traumatizing day.
PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] is one of the most common psychological illnesses that can be diagnosed from mass shootings. PTSD is mainly found in victims who have suffered a tragedy themselves or through closely-related family members or friends. With PTSD, many people try to, at all costs, avoid things that contribute to their trauma, according to “What Gun Violence Does to Our Mental Health.” In relation to PTSD, depression is also a recurring mental illness found in those who have suffered any form of gun violence.
Hoover School Psychiatrist Mr. Steve Fricke talks about the short-term effects gun violence has on not only students in schools but communities as a whole.
“I think the short-term effects are [that] it disrupts routines, and so you have those kids who are going to start missing school, and obviously if you miss school you can’t progress,” Fricke said.
He also talks about the long-term effects school shootings can have on a student present in a tragedy or a student who is fear-ridden due to unawareness of when situations could arise.
“Anytime there is some violence, or any tragedy, automatically it goes to mental health,” he said. “Whether it is the perpetrator, or the person who has created the incident, or the person who has experienced it, mental health is always drawn to that.”

Campbell Hollis

As mass shootings or school shootings have unfortunately become more and more present in the world, the amount of people with anxiety regarding any type of shooting has increased significantly. With talking about mental health, Fricke put a great deal of emphasis on anxiety and how to work through it when it comes to something so sensitive, yet prevalent.
“[When it comes to anxiety] separate what is real and what is out of your control,” he said. “If this is something that is in your control and it is a real threat, let’s talk about it. If it is something not necessarily a reality, like hearing about gun violence in Texas, that’s not here. Could it happen here? Absolutely. It could happen anywhere, but you have to balance out what is wrong and what is not [wrong].”
When students hear about gun violence or school shootings, an immense amount of worry can come from that. With this, fear can cause more drawbacks that can lead to ultimately dropping out of school or living with non-functional anxiety.
“It depends on the level of fear,” Fricke said. “You start seeing more chronic absenteeism, or more common with trauma, slower development, starting to miss school and you starting to miss out on things can lead to dropouts or relationship problems in the future.”
To mitigate some of the psychological effects of lockdowns, schools have practice lockdown drills. While it is no different than a fire or tornado drill, they can be a harsh reminder that things could change very drastically in an instant. Practice drills can aid in reminding students that schools have plans and protocols for many situations.
“They [drills] can help ease some of the tension [students have].” Fricke said. “It also creates a secure climate in regards to safety.”
The goal of preparing students for these situations, that they will hopefully never need to use, is to provide them with a plan so that they can know what they need to do when the situation arises.
When Fricke was asked how schools can make students feel more comfortable, he focuses on the idea of reassuring children that they are safe.
“I think just be aware, be sensitive to what the students are saying” he said. “Reassure [them] that school is a safe environment and that we are doing all things we can to keep them safe. Validate their feelings.” n