Newtown, Connecticut Shooting: Coping with traumatic events

Today’s news of the tragic shooting at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut has shocked the entire nation as once again a mass shooting has robbed youth of their lives for no apparent reason. What I know about this country is when tragedy strikes, the entire nation unites in support of families and victims of horrific events like these. Words cannot describe what the families of victims are going through and surely they will be in everyone’s prayers.

School shootings are traumatic events for all involved. Survivors frequently struggle with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. An article written by Susan Donaldson James in 2009 for spoke with survivors, both students and teachers, of the Columbine shooting. 10 years later some survivors report that coping remains a struggle and certain triggers can unleash grief. The survivor interviewed in the article credits counseling with helping him grieve and learning to cope with what happened.

A school that suffered a shooting earlier this year in Chardon, Ohio did a spectacular job of providing grief counseling. Free counseling was offered for school staff, teachers, students, and parents. A professor of psychology at Virginia Tech who counseled students after the shooting on Virginia Tech’s campus said, "most people process the events and heal, but about 8% to 15% are likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder." Survivors can struggle with nightmares, feeling secure at school again, or may avoid handling the situation all together. In many cases, long-term therapy is needed to ensure the development of healthy coping mechanisms.

As information about this horrible incident comes out I sincerely hope that the mental health of the victims and their families is taken seriously. They should be provided with the psychological help they need to heal and recover from what happened.  Services should be offered freely and special attention should be made to de-stigmatize the act of speaking to a mental health professional so that people can feel more comfortable getting help.  Additionally, the school should run an educational campaign to inform kids and parents of the possible psychological effects of living through a tragedy so they can identify problems should they occur and respond effectively to them. 

My deepest condolences go out to the victims and their families of this horrific shooting.  


By Miguel Brown