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Anxiety and Stress Management

with Patricia A. Farrell, PhD

This blog has been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support Dr. Farrell has brought to the WebMD community.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Gunshots on Campus – Advice for Families

We send our children to school each day and our older children go away to college to begin learning more life skills to prepare them for their careers, their futures and to have an opportunity for independence. We always expect that they will return to us safely, but that doesn’t always happen. When it doesn’t, our faith in their safety at school is shaken, and now there’s been another shooting in a lecture hall on the campus of Northern Illinois University.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this and it’s not the first time we’ve seen it at a university. Who can forget last year’s shooting at Virginia Tech or the attack at the University of Texas at Austin when Charles Whitman climbed into the bell tower and held the entire campus prisoner?

What is the appropriate action for the school, the parents, the students and our country? No one has the magic formula, but one thing we do know is that going on with life, as before, won’t be easy, but it’s the only way to defeat the anxiety and stress being experienced. The trauma of the incident will not disappear, but how everyone responds will make all the difference.

Families are the primary support now and families must be included in any actions taken on behalf of the students. The strength they can provide for each other is not something that can be offered by schools alone.

Reassurance, not overreacting and maintaining calm is essential. The students may not experience any symptoms of stress immediately, but that doesn’t mean that the storm is over. Counseling and learning how to use this situation in a positive way is also essential. I am a strong proponent of “good from bad” and I believe we will find some good here, too.

The main thing all of us want to know is what happened and what were the factors that set this deadly plan into place. Those answers are yet to come.

Still concerned or anxious? Come join our discussion on the Health Cafe.

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Posted by: Patricia Farrell, PhD at 6:02 pm

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