Gun Violence And Its Effect On The Mental Health Of Children In America

In a piece for Forbes, Omer Awan addresses the psychological impact of mass shootings and other gun violence on teens and younger children: 

“Tomorrow will mark the 24th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting that took the lives of 13 individuals and left 21 physically injured. Although more than two decades ago, we are still witnessing the same realities here in America- gun violence, mass shootings, and countless innocent lives lost. Although much attention gets paid to the perpetrators and those killed in these crimes, what about the emotional, behavioral, and psychological consequences of children that have witnessed the crimes or who are hearing about the crimes constantly through mass media?

“An article in Current Psychiatry Reports examined the mental health effects on children and adolescents exposed to mass shootings. The authors described adverse mental health outcomes of children and adolescents exposed to mass shootings including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, suicide, and substance abuse. If we examine PTSD, for example, this means children and adolescents may experience problems with sleep, anxiety, hypervigilance, grief, and anger. Parents of children exposed to mass shootings may be fearful of sending their kids to schools. For children that develop PTSD, they are more likely to experience fear, lack focus in school, and show difficulty with problem solving.

“According to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, more than 100,000 American children attended a school in which a shooting took place in just the years 2018 and 2019. According to this report, those children exposed to school shootings had a higher rate of antidepressant use, showed a decline in average test scores, had a higher likelihood of repeating a grade in the subsequent two years after the shooting, and were less likely to be employed when compared to children that were not exposed to school shootings. Students that were exposed to these shootings were also less likely to graduate high school, college, and graduate school.”

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