The Psychological Damage of Gun Violence
On Feb. 14, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was attacked by a 19-year-old shooter carrying a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle. The casualties were devastating, leaving 17 dead and wounding many others. With the toll of this tragedy still sinking in to those involved, one could question the role that mass shootings and gun violence play in a student’s psychological health.
For students under the age of eighteen who are survivors of gun violence, the trauma experienced can be especially damaging to their long-term health. The Adverse Childhood Experiences [ACE] test provides a measurement of the damage such trauma could do to the mental and physical well being of these young survivors. Conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Center for Disease Control, the ACE test measures the likelihood of a patient experiencing long-term side effects of childhood traumatic experiences. The higher a patient’s score is, the more likely they are to experience adulthood health problems like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, depression, and other mental and physical consequences.
One particular area of survivors’ mental health that is of particular concern is PTSD. The National Center For Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through the VA says.
“Fourteen months after a sniper attack at an elementary school, level of exposure to that event remained the primary predictor of ongoing posttraumatic stress reactions in 100 schoolchildren who were followed up. Guilt feelings and knowing the child who was killed were associated with a greater number of symptoms. Grief reactions occurred independent of degree of exposure to the event.” NADER, K., PYNOOS, R., FAIRBANKS, L., & FREDERICK, C. said in an abstract for their psychological study in 1990
Survivors of school related gun violence suffer from another psychological weight, victim blaming and gaslighting. Following the Parkland shooting, survivors were belittled by twitter users who began blaming the victims and survivors who witnessed the people they had spent almost everyday with for several years slaughtered in front of them for their actions during and after the shooting. Attacks ranged from criticising the teens for “taking snapchat videos” rather than calling 911, as well as accusing them of being paid actors to further promote legislature on gun control.
“We are KIDS – not actors. We are KIDS that have grown up in Parkland all of our lives. We are KIDS who feared for our lives while someone shot up our school. We are KIDS working to prevent this from happening again. WE ARE KIDS.” Jaclyn Corin tweeted on Feb. 20.
One particular attack came from youtube conspiracy theorist Mark Dice, who has since deleted his tweet blaming the students for what happened to them based on the fact that he believed that they did not call 911 enough, accusing them of rather videoing the horrific situation.
“17 people are dead. 17 of my classmates. This is how you f****** respond? How much of a heartless d*** do you have to be to tweet something like this. And btw as we were running for our lives we were calling 911 to the point that they told us not to anymore.” Sarah Chadwick tweeted on Feb. 14.
The Parkland shooting has created a movement of change within the nation, with the survivors of the shooting using their respective social media platforms to speak out for change in the way America regulates guns in an attempt to make sure that no one else has to endure the trauma that they do.
“Those who face gun violence on a level that we have only just glimpsed from our gated communities have never had their voices heard in their entire lives the way that we have in these few weeks alone. Since we all share in feeling this pain and know all too well how it feels to have to grow up at the snap of a finger, we were able to cover a lot of ground in communicating our experiences. People of color in inner-cities and everywhere have been dealing with this for a despicably long time, and the media cycles just don’t cover the violence the way they did here. The platform us Parkland Students have established is to be shared with every person, black or white, gay or straight, religious or not, who has experienced gun violence, and hand in hand, side by side, We Will Make This Change Together.” Emma Gonzalez tweeted on March 4.
Supported by Parkland survivors, The National School Walkout is planned for March 14th to call upon congress to pass laws that will keep the nation safe from gun violence.