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If mishandled, exposure to trauma can lead to mental health issues in youth

Teens Mental Health
Posted at 10:24 PM, Feb 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-14 23:14:52-05

BALTIMORE — A tragic event happened Monday night at Michigan State University, a gunman killed three people and wounded five others.

People watched on TV or kept up through social media, but do you ever stop to think about the after effects of such a horrific event?

Not only on those involved, but also on those watching, especially youth?

Watching any kind of gun violence can leave a child feeling shocked, unsafe and scared. This is true whether it's in person or watched through an outlet.

But there are steps in confronting gun violence with youth.

"If my son came home from school today and told me that there was a shooting at school, the very first thing I would want to do is give him some space,” said Oleg Tarkovsky, Director of Behavioral Health at Carefirst in Baltimore.

Tarkovsky says dealing with trauma from an event can have long lasting effects on a child's mental health. It's important to let the child experience the emotion of what happened first then engage in a conversation on how they feel.

"Name it to tame it. You want to let your kid name their emotions or feelings in order to be able to feel better,” said Tarkovsky.

The child doesn't necessarily have to be there in person for a traumatic event to have a negative impact. He says "Sometimes imagining or fearing an event that you yourself were not part of can be just as impactful as being their yourself."

He also says normal stress reactions have an expiration date. It's when those reactions get severe that it's best to have a professional step in.

"So for some kids, for example, especially teenagers, tweens, you want to pay attention to what they are nervous about, what are they worried about or what kind of things in their lives make them feel sad,” said Tarkovsky.

Constant exposure to gun violence can have adverse effects on children's mental health and can lead to PTSD and depression.

For youth in Baltimore, Tarkovsky says about 10% admit dealing with depression. That's just those who have come forward.

Help is available to those dealing with a crisis- child or adult, through the National Mental Health Crisis Line by calling or texting 988.

From there, you'll be directly connected to a licensed behavioral health professional.