Last week we all watched in horror as yet another school fell victim to a student with a gun. In the end, several students had died and numerous others were wounded. As with many of these types of events, those families who suffered losses were embraced by the community, the country and the world. But there are many more victims than those who were directly injured or killed. Some of the students who witnessed the events or provided help to the wounded will live forever with the images of what happened that day.
School Shootings and PTSD
According to an article on NBCNews, "School Shootings and PTSD: Trauma Can Last for Months or Years," "Mental health experts say the echoes of such a trauma can last for months - or if untreated - for years." Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can happen after going through, being in or witnessing a serious and traumatic event. Initially, students who are involved in a school shooting, even those who attend the school where a shooting took place, can feel angry, confused and scared. For most, these feelings will disappear with time, but for some, the feelings continue or get worse, making it difficult for them to focus at school or participate in social activities and may impact them for years to come.
After the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech, where 32 people were killed and at least 25 others were wounded, The National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, published the results of a study outlining how survivors and families were impacted. According to the research, anywhere between 10 and 36 percent of survivors showed symptoms of PTSD and many more showed subthreshold PTSD, or mild symptoms. The report indicated that "very few participants reported no symptoms." 
Bursting the Bubble
Dr. Eitan D. Schwarz, Clinical Assistant Profession at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. explains why children may be more susceptible to PTSD after a traumatic event such as a school shooting. "By nature, we must all live our daily lives in an illusory ‘bubble of invincibility...' Terror shatters our ‘bubble,' and psychologically injures us when we live through or witness intense fear and helplessness...Some people cannot restore their ‘bubble' within a few weeks after the event because their brains have been permanenly reset in an activated state. They are haunter for a lifetime by ‘malignant memories' from the violence..."Children especially need families to help maintain and restore their ‘bubble.'" 
Signs of PTSD in Children
Children and teens may not show typical symptoms of PTSD but there are still signs, even in young children. Being aware of how PTSD may appear can help parents seek help immediately.
- Generalized fears
- Separation anxiety
- Avoidance of certain situations
- Sleep problems
- Preoccupation with words or symbols
- Play which includes reproducing the event
- Losing acquired skills (such as potty training)
Elementary Age Children