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'Vicarious Trauma': Psychological Impact of Texas School Shooting On U.S.

LUTZ, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) - Hillsborough County health experts are weighing in on potential psychological impacts from the Texas school shooting. Local therapists say the events that have unfolded could trigger PTSD for those here in the sunshine state as well.

The shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead Tuesday at a Texas elementary school is again forcing the conversation on how to talk about violence and trauma.

"Therapists are already… our schedules are filled with anxious kids," said Yolanda Harper LCSW, a local therapist  and owner of Harper Therapy. "How are we having conversations about how to cope from these things that shouldn't be happening." She says she's feeling the devastation, herself and that if you're taking on the traumatic toll - but aren't necessarily tied to the events, directly – your feelings are warranted, too. "I'm so angry but I know that, for myself, underneath the anger is fear. We call this vicarious traumatization. Its bearing witness to other peoples' trauma. And because we're human beings who still feel things and care, it touches us, it impacts us. How could it not? When we see the loss of innocent children, that impacts us in a more traumatic way, as well. I think we're in far worse trouble as a society if we ever get to a point where we're so emotionally walled off and it doesn't bother us."

So she's giving helpful advice on ways to manage trauma aside from seeking trauma therapy.

"Honoring what you're feeling without feeling like you have to justify the way that you feel. You know, check in with your kids - even throughout the summer - about how they feel about school and don't be supposed come fall when there's some pretty intense feelings about going back. Because when we do that. We hear, 'Oh my gosh, me too'. And that's the healing that happens in community. There might be some elements of healing, but there are scars that are not going to go away."

Click here for more resources on PTSD.

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