Two suicides occurred years after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting as well as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Two survivors from Stoneman Douglas, 19 year-old Sydney Aiello and 16 year-old Calvin Desir, killed themselves a week apart from each other and Jeremy Richman, the father of one of the children killed at Sandy Hook, killed himself that week as well. Therapist Barbara Mauer speaks about why it is that survivors of massacres commit suicide and what could be done to prevent it.
Why Do Survivors of a Massacre Kill Themselves?
People who are going through the trauma of a survivor develop mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. All of these conditions can increase the risk of suicide in young people. Young people are still growing neurologically and biologically which increases nervous system responses to trauma. Children and teens tend to be impulsive in committing acts that can lead to suicide and repeating what others have done, especially if the teenager who committed suicide is someone they can relate to. Places like schools and churches are supposed to be a place where teens and children feel safe. When tragic acts of violence creep in these places, what they believed to be a safe place for them turned out to be false. It is also possible that a child have a pre-existing mental health disorder can increase a person’s risk of suicidal tendencies after a tragedy.
What Should People Do For Children Going Through Trauma Post Massacre?
It is best for youth to go through immediate interventions like Psychological First Aid, EMDR, and other types of evidence-based therapies. How long a person continues doing treatment is up to the survivor. They may feel like they have gotten enough treatment to help them for now, but may need to revisit therapy at a another point in time if symptoms return. For example, someone may feel that they feel fine now, but then symptoms reappear during the anniversary, graduation, or other events that are reminders of the tragedy. It can still be helpful to attend therapy even years after the tragedy just in case your memories are impacting you in a negative way, such as preventing your child from going to school in fear of history repeating itself. The most important thing you can do is have social support and discussions about trauma treatments to feel better. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which you can call at any time, 24 hours a day, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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