Columbine High School. Sandy Hook Elementary School. Robb Elementary School. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Once just the names of schools. Now words that bring sadness to many and the devastating grip of grief to countless families and survivors.
According to the National Center for PTSD, it’s estimated “that 28 percent of people who have witnessed a mass shooting develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and about a third develop Acute Stress Disorder” (link.) With the prevalence of mass shootings and the ongoing trial of the Parkland, Florida school shooter, it’s important to continue to recognize and educate survivors and families that have been affected by such tragedy. Please know that the impact of survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and traumatic bereavement after such events is nothing to be brushed off and that there is no such thing as offering or seeking help too late.
Community Support for Those Affected by Traumatic Events
One of the most important resources psychologists suggest victims and their families utilize is their community. When a community comes together to recognize those suffering and offer resources and compassion, those affected have less of a chance of experiencing ongoing mental health problems.
So what does community support look like?
- Memorial events. Remembrance events, especially those initiated by students and communities are incredibly helpful for those affected by mass shootings or violent events.
- Classroom support. Schools that provide additional mental health resources, counselors and therapists, group therapy, and other options to students and families are imperative. If you have not received information about what your child’s school can offer your student, reach out to them.
- Community grants that support finding and obtaining mental health care. Communities can offer trauma survivors the financial support they need to get the health care they deserve. For example, Broward County has provided over $1 million dollars in grant funding to local mental health non-profits so those affected in the community can find affordable care.
Advocacy as Healing for Trauma Victims
Another way many victims of extreme trauma find relief is through advocacy and connection to others who have suffered similar events. Lauren Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, speaking about her heavy feelings, says “Channeling that emotion into my advocacy … is the healthiest thing I can do, because what we fight for is love and resistance and liberation for everyone.” She and fellow survivors created March for Our Lives, a monumental movement to end gun violence. For many, advocating for change provides a sense of healing.
Others have joined groups, often described as “clubs you never wanted to join.” However, the connection survivors and families find in these groups offer a chance to find solace in others. Some groups for trauma survivors include:
- The Rebels Project
- Parents of Murdered Children
- Children of Murdered Parents
- Siblings of Murdered Siblings
- Survivors of Domestic Violence Murder Victims
- Suicide Survivors Loss & Support
Therapy for Trauma Victims
Last, but certainly not least, therapy from a licensed and certified therapist is strongly suggested for trauma survivors. One of the best types of therapy for trauma is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapy that focuses on helping survivors understand their thoughts better (for example, recognizing harmful thoughts that are a result of survivor’s guilt) and changing those thoughts to improve mental health and emotional health.
As a clinical psychologist specializing in CBT, Solution-Focused Therapy, and Interpersonal Therapy, it’s my mission to help those in the Parkland community and all residents of Florida who have suffered through trauma. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and find the help you deserve.