School Shooting Trials and The Impact on Mental Health

Updated: Apr 29

Blog post written by,

Dr. Bhritanie Jardine, Psy.D.


After the merciless school shooting at Stoneman Douglas Highschool in February of 2018, the world responded with shock and outrage. The mental health community in the South Florida area swiftly responded to the need for psychological first aide, as well as providing longer term treatment for those who developed trauma related conditions as a direct result of the events of that day. “Parkland Strong” became a message of hope, healing, and connection as communities embraced a sense of shared devastation. And as the years have passed, most people impacted on that day have found ways to move forward with a new sense of normalcy. Now that the trial against Nikolas Cruz has begun, we can expect a certain amount of people to notice an increase in frequency and intensity of psychological distress related to their own traumatic experience that day.

Public trails can be incredibly difficult on survivors’ family and friends, and its important to go back to the basics of what helped start the healing process. Watching the trial is bound to bring up a complex barrage of emotions for everyone involved. There is a deep desire for justice, or anything that can bring a sense of “righting the wrong”. Much of the healing process involves a search for closure that can be metaphorical or tangible. A court ruling in line with views of justice can do wonders in terms of creating a sense of closure, however this does not always happen. And even when it does happen, it comes after weeks or months of grueling legal arguments and gut-wrenching victim statements. Tens of thousands of people are keeping updated with this trial but doing so has the potential to create negative impacts on mental health such as becoming re-traumatized. Retraumatization happens when an individual is in a present-day situation that has some similarity to the original trauma which induces physical and/or emotional reactions that make them feel they are reliving the trauma. Some examples of common trauma reactions are:


· Intense flashbacks

· Increased reliance on drugs or alcohol

· Trouble sleeping and/or nightmares

· Feelings of numbness/detachment

· Increased agitation, hypervigilance or irritability

· Increased isolation and fatigue


Noticing these symptoms in yourself does not necessarily mean you cannot continue following the trial, but it does suggest you need to be in close contact with a mental health professional who can help you regulate your emotions and prevent the development of more long-standing psychological concerns. Regulating your emotions can help you fell more stability in your healing process and can be done through specific techniques prescribed to you by your mental health professional. It can also be helpful to rely on family and friends, or networks of survivors to engage with social connections that can facilitate healthy mourning and emotional expression. My hope is that this court case will result in a ruling that allows for a deeper level of healing for everyone impacted by the shooting, and for individuals to have the support they need to help give them strength until that day.


Warmly,

Bhritanie Jardine, Psy.D.

 

BHRITANIE JARDINE, PSYD


Eating Disorders, Grief and Loss and Trauma Expert

For more information about my services, please call me directly at 561-704-9099 or you can email me at mindbodybalance@drbhritanie.com. I'd be happy to provide more details and a FREE phone consultation. You can also visit my website at DrBhritanie.com.



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