How do school shootings impact child's mental health?

Posted at 5:24 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 19:36:54-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After a school shooting, a child or teen is more likely to develop a mental health issue according to a child psychiatrist.

When school shootings happen, Dr. Prakash Chandra hears about it from his patients.

Chandra, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Truman Medical Centers treats patients ages 3 to 18.

"These are difficult questions to answer, like ‘Why would someone do this heinous crime?’” said Chandra.

While he can’t answer those questions, the doctor encourages parents to talk with their kids about these incidents. He says even from a distance, there can be an impact.

"It depends on what level of exposure they had, so if they had seen it happening in front of them the level of trauma could be much more severe compared to, ‘I was there but I didn't see the incident,’” said Chandra.

People who have gone through a trauma like a school shooting are more likely to develop mental health issues in the future, Chandra says.

"After a few days, you start kind of processing this information and then in the long term either you might develop anxiety symptoms, depression as well or other trauma related behavioral problems,” said Chandra.

That’s why he tells parents to keep an eye on their children following a school shooting.

"Parents know their children the best, if there are any changes in their behavior that would indicate that something else might be going on, you have to intervene there,” said Chandra.

Those behavioral changes are things like irritability, change in appetite or anti-social behavior.

The doctor says these changes can happen over a few days or even a few months after the incident.

Chandra says if you do notice a change in your child that’s the time to contact a professional.