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Psychiatrist: Anxious Feelings Normal For Kids After Traumatic Event In School

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- For children returning to school after a violent event there, being scared is to be expected.

"I will never be able to walk down that hallway the same way, because my best friend got stabbed right in front of me," said Franklin Regional student Gracey Evans.

"I think if I walked in there, I might just freeze," said student Brett Hurt, who was stabbed.

"It's shocking that this could happen in your own school, your own hallways, classroom," says AGH child psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Mannarino, "I would expect most kids, when they return to school, to feel anxious or to feel afraid. Completely normal."

Counselors can help those close to the incident make sense of their experiences and feelings, and develop healthy coping skills, like deep breathing. This gives kids a sense of control.

Another part of overcoming the fear -- making safety plans, and support from friends, parents and teachers, though parents and staff can also be fearful for their children, their students and themselves.

"There needs to be folks available to the teachers to educate them about the normal reactions the kids have and also their reactions," says Dr. Mannarino.

For very young children, the continuing images on TV and the Internet can be distressing, so limiting this exposure would be a good idea.

"Right now, the best thing for the kids is to go right back to school," Dr. Mannarino continues. "The more time they're away from the school, the more anxiety and fear they'll have."

While the symptoms can be similar, feeling anxious and scared right now is not post-traumatic stress disorder. If a month or two go by, and the feelings still persist, that's when screening for PTSD would be appropriate.

It can affect one in five kids in these situations. The good news is kids do get better from that.

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