Monday, March 27, 2023

Opinion: What research tells us about the aftermath of the school shootings. Nation World News

Editor’s Note: Rinad S. Beidas is a professor of medical ethics, health policy, and psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is director of the Penn Medicine Nude Unit and founding director of the Penn Implementation Science Center at the Leonard Davis Institute. The views expressed in this commentary are solely theirs and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Pennsylvania Health System or the Perelman School of Medicine. See more opinions on Nation World News.

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I was a 17-year-old high school senior when the unthinkable happened: Two students at Columbine High School shot and killed 13 people before dying by suicide. News of the mass shooting shook the nation, and I still remember the adults who tried to reassure me—noting the frequency of such an incident—it was an anomaly, he said.

Rinad S.  Bidas

Fast forward to 2022. School shootings are happening more often. Firearm injuries are the leading cause of death for young people in the United States. Now that I’m a 40-year-old child psychologist doing firearm safety research and the mother of two elementary school students, I have trouble reassuring my kids when they ask me, “Mom, are we safe? Will someone shoot us at school?”

And while the nation grapples with the horrific loss of life following the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, it’s also important to ask what the mental health effects are for students witnessing and surviving school shootings – and for millions of youth in the United States. For those states who live in fear of their school being the next target. While young people in the US are still more likely to be exposed to other forms of gun violence, the risk of school shootings is huge, and we don’t really know how it affects mental health and well-being.

We must first acknowledge the forces with which we are currently living. There has been an epidemic for more than two years. More than 200,000 children in the United States have lost their parents or caregivers to COVID-19, a burden disproportionately experienced by youth from racial and ethnic minority groups. Children are already facing a mental health crisis of epic proportions. The Surgeon General issued an advisory highlighting the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis, and leading organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association called for a national emergency in children. has announced. and adolescent mental health.

This is the context in which our children are living. So, what do we know about the consequences of school shootings on young people who have lived through them? Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough research, but what we do know suggests that these firings leave a profound effect, as we would expect.

The severity of survivor’s post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms is closely related to that of mass shootings. Increased anxiety and sadness, and local exposure to school shootings, are associated with increased antidepressant use among youth. School shootings also increase absenteeism and grade duplication, reduce test scores, reduce your chances of completing high school and college, and reduce employability and earnings by ages 24 to 26. Cost isn’t just personal – it’s social.

As for young people who have not experienced mass shootings, most are concerned that it might happen in their school. We also know little about the impact of school safety tactics such as active shooter practice on young people’s well-being, but early findings suggest that they may be associated with increased anxiety, stress, and symptoms of depression.

So, how do we proceed?

First, we should establish some common ground. Safety is important to every individual, gun owner or not. Parents want their children to be safe in school. Teachers want to go to work without clashing with an active shooter. Gun safety – which includes responsible and safe firearms storage – is not the same thing as gun control, and it is something we can all agree on.

Second, and in line with a gun safety approach, we should view gun violence as a public health issue, just as we have for motor vehicle injury prevention. There are evidence-based solutions at the individual, organizational, community and societal levels that we know we can take to make a difference.

These solutions include establishing norms and systems around responsible and safe firearms storage, converting vacant lots into green community spaces, which studies have shown a correlation to a reduction in violence and crime, and large-scale access to semi-automatic or assault weapons. Including consideration of restrictions on the purchase of capacity magazines. ,

Third, we must prioritize and destroy mental health. We must invest in making mental health accessible to all Americans. This means that we should make mental health the cornerstone of health care and include it in our educational curriculum. We must ensure equal access to evidence-based mental health services for children and families anywhere in schools, communities, faith-based organizations, and anywhere. This is necessary at all times, but especially in the period after school shootings.

Fourth, we should fund firearm safety research. For more than two decades, there was little federal funding for firearms injury prevention research because of a provision in the 1996 Congressional Appropriations Bill known as the Dickey Amendment. That didn’t change until 2019, when Congress allocated $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, and there’s still a lot to catch up on to better understand how to increase firearm safety and reduce injury. to be done. Deaths.

Fifth, we need influential people to speak up. In 2017, rapper Logic wrote a song called “1-800-273-8255”, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number. The song was associated with increased calls to lifelines and a decrease in suicide deaths. Likewise, we need public figures and influencers to speak up about firearm safety. On Thursday, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays stopped tweeting during their games and instead shared facts about gun violence following the school shooting in Uvalde.

I hope that if we, as a nation, take some of the steps outlined above, perhaps we will one day live in a country where school shootings cannot be imagined once again. We must not lose hope, and we must not forget. If we all take action and come together as a common grounded community, there is a way forward.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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