Dr. Gayani DeSilva MD
crime and law
Gayani DeSilva is a Child Adolescent Psychiatrist with 20 years experience. She is the author of A Psychiatrists Guide: Helping Parents Reach Their Depressed Tween, and A Psychiatrists Guide: Stop Teen Addiction Before It Starts.
There are seemingly no words to describe our collective and individual reaction to the recent school shooting in Texas resulting in the deaths of 18 children and 2 teachers. We respond first as human beings to the loss of young lives, then as parents and family members relating to the grief of the victims’ families, and then we wonder how to keep our own children and families safe.
Coping with tragedy:
-Acknowledge the feelings and reactions we have to tragedy. Allow yourself to feel sad and fearful, angry, and discouraged.
-Share your feelings with others.
-Even if events do not affect you or your family directly, we are all vulnerable to developing stress reactions, and even PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
-Because of this vulnerability to developing stress reactions and PTSD, self care is critical
-Self care includes getting enough sleep, eating nutritiously, exercising, and tending to our other needs including nurturance.
-Remember that we do have control of many facets of our circumstances: we can vote for gun control, advocate for mental health, advocate for children’s welfare and safety.
-We can also encourage discussion of the tragedy at home with our families.
Children will have a reaction to the news, and may feel frightened, sad, or confused. They will need to know that they can express their feelings and thoughts. Parents can help their children by doing the following:
-Sharing with their children their own feelings. Model how to express feelings, thoughts, and reactions.
-Listen to your children. Validate their feelings.
-Be patient. Some children will “act out” their feelings instead of talking about them. They may also do the opposite and withdraw.
-If children withdraw, validate their feelings, and let them know it is OK to feel and to show their feelings. Don’t put pressure on them, just calmly share that you understand and expect that they will have feelings and questions.
-Remind kids that these events are relatively rare, and that their school is on high alert and making changes to make sure they are safe.
-It may not feel like much, but validating your child’s feelings is a very powerful intervention and will support your child’s resilience and sense of safety.
PTSD, or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder:
A reaction to trauma that results in the development of several symptoms in the areas of hyperarousal, avoidance and re-experiencing the traumatic event. Some of these symptoms include hypervigilance, avoidance of triggers, feeling cut off from others, high anxiety, panic attacks, a sense of foreshortened future, dissociative states, nightmares, flashbacks, reactive behaviors, startle responses, and intrusive memories.
Treatment includes medication and therapy (CBT, EMDR).
For people who have experienced other traumas, each subsequent trauma may bring about exponentially more significant symptoms.
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