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Valentine’s Day will sadly never be the same for the students, parents, friends, teachers, and surrounding community of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the afternoon hours of Wednesday, February 14, 2018, just before school was due to let out, gunshots rang through the high school campus as Nikolas Cruz opened fire on students who were previously his classmates. Early reports indicated a significant number of damages. As of February 15, 2018, 17 individuals have been identified as deceased including students and staff. Many more have sustained significant injuries.

Many are finding themselves exhausted, saddened, and frustrated by this consistent recurrence costing so many bright, young lives to be lost. For many others who have been in a mass shooting situation, known or lost a family member to a mass casualty or mass shooting situation, or have been in physically violent situations in their lifetime, these events can trigger a response of trauma. Third party individuals, like those consuming the mass coverage of mainstream media and social media reports, are also prone to developing symptoms of PTSD and trauma from the repeated input of the graphic information. Certainly, for the students, parents, faculty, staff, first responders and law enforcement officials involved, trauma has already taken hold.

Thomas Pecca (LMHC, CSAT, CTT), our Clinical Director at The Guest House asks a pertinent, heartbreaking question in response to the traumatic events which took place at the South Florida high school. “How many more times will we be horrified to be viscerally impacted by the sounds and sights of our children experiencing another devastating school shooting?”

The lack of downtime between mass shootings, especially those among school­ aged children, keeps victims,­­ both those involved and those consuming media­­, in a reactive state of trauma. Trauma, it can be said, is a disorder of the nervous system, causing a constant malfunction of the sympathetic nervous system.

“We have become a traumatized society,” Thomas describes. “Hyper­ vigilant and waiting for the next school shooting, the next terrorist attack, or the next breaking news. ”As a result, there is no time to heal. Thomas explains that “this keeps us in a state of trauma reactivity and it diminishes us as empathetic loving human beings.”

Is There A Solution?

Solutions for guns, violence, and a lack of empathy toward fellow human beings is a greater problem for which a solution may take a long time to formulate. In terms of your response immediately following a mass casualty situation like a school shooting, there are some simple solutions you, your children, and your family members can follow:

• Limit your consumption of media regularly repeating detailed information or depicting any graphic imagery of the event.

• Take a break from social media where news stations and friends will be posting about the event.

• Practice extra self­ care by engaging in activities that are proven to engage your parasympathetic nervous system and help you relax. Turn to meditation, yoga, spending time outside disconnected from media and technology, engaging with loving friends and family, or other activities.

As for what we must do to move forward from this morbid trend and truly heal, not as a community or a country, but as a human race, our clinical director offers these words of inspiration:

“We must restore our belief in the beauty of humanity, not focus on the violence of humanity. We must use our empathy and love to help those directly impacted to heal and find peace again.”

In these times it is more important than ever to know that you are not alone. The staff at The Guest House are opening up our phone lines to anyone suffering from the Parkland shootings. Call us if you are struggling and are in need of support during this difficult and traumatic time.

You are not alone. Together, we will heal. Together, we can move forward. 1­-855-­483-­7800