Teens may express vulnerability after shooting

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Psychiatrist comments on Roswell tragedy

ALBUQUERQUE – For the 12- and 13-year-old students who witnessed a fellow student opening fire inside the school’s gym, their worlds are forever changed.

Authorities said a seventh grader at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell brought a shotgun to school and fired shots around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday inside the gym where students were getting ready to go to class. The 12-year-old student wounded two other students, an 11-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl named Kendal Sanders before a staff member talked him into putting down his gun. Both victims were transported to UMC Health System in Lubbock, Texas. The boy is listed in critical condition. Sanders was initially listed in critical condition but was updated to serious, according to hospital officials.

“Many teenagers, especially younger ones, have a sense of invulnerability about themselves and their physical safety,” said Dr. Scott Carroll, Director of Child Psychiatric Consulting Services at UNM Hospital. “They have a sense that nothing bad can happen, that I am somehow magically protected.”

“Often times, witnesses are more profoundly traumatized than even the victims,” Dr. Carroll said. “Just because the child wasn’t physically injured doesn’t mean they can’t be profoundly traumatized.”

Dr. Carroll said the child doesn’t even have to witness the traumatic event firsthand. For a young student, just hearing reports of school shootings can be damaging.

“Young children, especially, can’t differentiate between I’m here and that event was there in a different place,” Dr. Carroll said. “They see it as being a part of their immediate environment, and they feel like they’re imminently endangered.”

With recent unthinkable events invading the nation’s schools, including last December’s shooting in Newtown, Conn., last month’s shooting at Arapahoe High School near Denver and Tuesday’s latest shooting in Roswell, Dr. Carroll said it’s important to watch for signs, such as difficulty sleeping, nightmares and flashbacks, in young kids. He also said offering support is critical.

“The first key is the reassure them that they’re safe. Physical safety is very important,” Dr. Carroll said.

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