PSYC 420 Post-Traumatic Growth in a Time of School Violence
PSYC 420 Post-Traumatic Growth in a Time of School Violence
Studies document rising post-traumatic stress disorders among school-going children and teachers who have had close experience with school shootings. This year alone, a survey reveals that 27 school shootings have occurred in different parts of the country. For example, the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, TX this year claimed 21 lives and injured 18 people (Yan & Flores, 2022). Apart from the physical injury gun-related violence and other forms of violence in schools have a lasting psychological impact on the people who witness or are present at the time of the incident. The psychological effects have contributed to traumatized communities. Yet, in most cases, people focus only on the mental capacity of the perpetrator rather than the negative consequences on the psychological and physical well-being of the victims and witnesses. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the effects of violence on people and the complex trauma associated with school violence.
Physical and Psychological Impacts of Stress
People who witness school violence develop both short-term and chronic stress because of the psychological impact of the violence. Stress has both physical and psychological effects on a person. One of the physical effects of stress is high blood pressure, which can lead to hypertension. Hypertension is a chronic condition and risk factor for many life-threatening diseases such as stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and other cardiovascular-related conditions (Assadi, 2018). Secondly, chronic stress causes weight loss or weight gain and severe energy loss, which impacts overall health. For example, weight gain can cause other chronic conditions such as diabetes, worsen hypertension, or cause diseases such as cancer and arthritis. Thirdly, stress causes muscle aches, tensed muscles, and pain that leads to overall poor quality of life for an individual (Yaribeygi et al., 2019). Moreover, muscle issues can cause arthritis and mobility problems. Additionally, stress can manifest in angry outbursts and aggression that may lead to harm/injury to another person or the individual with stress. Finally, stress cause various symptoms that contribute to poor quality of life for an individual such as headache, chest pain, vomiting, nausea, stomach discomfort, sleep disturbances, skin conditions, and low blood sugar.
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The psychological effects of stress include depression and anxiety and other serious mental health conditions. For example, exposure to stressful experiences such as school violence can cause post-traumatic stress (PTSD) disorder in children. PTSD is a severe mental health condition that impacts the social and overall functioning of a person. For example, it can cause low concentration in school, leading to poor performance. Secondly, the stressful experience can cause withdrawal in children leading to social isolation and the risk of suicide. Additionally, stress can cause irritability and anger, leading to physical manifestations such as aggressiveness and violent outburst. Moreover, stress can also lead to alcohol use, tobacco smoking, and drug abuse, which a person uses to forget the stress, yet these only provide temporary effects while plunging a person into addiction. Children exposed to violence-related stress can also become desensitized to violence.
Resilience, GRIT, and Growth Mindset
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficult situations such as traumatic events. resilience means having optimism during challenging situations and not giving up like many would. Resilience also means avoiding anxiety in stressful situations, but recovering quickly from the impact of such unfortunate events (Matheson et al., 2020). Resilience protects from mental illnesses such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder or the risk of worsening such conditions. another benefit of resilience is preventing trauma or recurrence of trauma despite exposure to traumatic events. For example, in the 2018 school shooting in Santa Fe high school, some victims interviewed explained how they developed resilience to cope with such incidents (Rascoe, 2022).
On the other hand, GRIT refers to the drive or passion that keeps one going over a long period when facing obstacles. For example, staying calm during a violent moment such as a school shooting even though one is in the midst of danger (Fernandez et al., 2018). The benefit of grit is that it enables a person to recognize challenges in their lives and confront them. Additionally, grit enables one to move on despite the challenges they are facing. Grit is also beneficial in creating adaptable change, which makes it easy to adjust to circumstances, for example, easily adapting to the experience of a violent incident to avoid its psychological impact. Having a growth mindset brings together the concepts of grit and resilience to enhance positive growth (Park, Tsukayama et al., 2020). A growth mindset acknowledges that failure is part of life and strives to improve. The benefits of a growth mindset are encouraging conflict resolution and collaboration.
Strategies for Coping with Violence in Schools
The first strategy for coping with violence is talking about the experience openly. Talking honestly about one’s feelings about an event that caused trauma helps a person rebuild safety and trust. The second coping strategy is taking care of oneself such as eating well, exercising, socializing, and having a good night’s sleep. Self-care is important in promoting emotional regulation and resilience during stressful events such as school violent shootings (Yaribeygi et al., 2019). Another coping strategy is helping others. Helping others gives fulfilment and positivity, which eliminates stress. Post-traumatic growth and a growth mindset is instrumental in enhancing resilience and the ability to cope with stressful situations. A growth mindset helps a person reframe challenges into opportunities to cultivate something positive. Such has been the case with empowerment grassroots movements. For example, in Parkland Florida, the students started a “Never Again” campaign to call for action (Witt, 2018). These students were affected too, but they chose to deal positively with their trauma and create an impact.
Future plans for society using PERMA and Prospection
PERMA designed by Martin Seligman stand for Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments. The purpose of PERMA is to help individuals enhance their well-being by practising the elements. The elements of PERMA promote living meaningful, feeling good, and having a fully engaged life with support from friends and family (Seligman, 2018). Prospection is the idea of evaluating the possible mental representation of the future involving prediction, planning and even daydreaming. Prospection is important because it shapes emotions and motivations. The future plans for society focus on positive psychology, which is living a well and meaningful life and eliminating sources of stressors in society. For example, the push for gun restrictions in plans to promote a gun-free society, which would reduce incidences of violence. Additionally, PERMA and prospection promote the idea of sustainability to promote positive psychology. Sustainability occurs in many forms including societal sustainability, social sustainability, economic, and environmental sustainability all of which influence positive life outcomes.
Positive psychology has a wide application in society. People who experience traumatic events such as school violence develop trauma that impacts their physical, emotional, social, and psychological well-being. Using the concepts of positive psychology helps such individuals build resilience, grit, and a growth mindset that support wellbeing and the ability to cope with stress. Additionally, the concepts can be used in creating future plans for society to enhance meaningful life for all people using the strategies of PERMA and prospection.
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Rascoe, A. (2022, June 5). Survivors of the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting are disappointed in Texas laws. NPR, pp. https://www.npr.org/2022/06/05/1103144970/survivors-of-the-2018-santa-fe-high-school-shooting-are-disappointed-in-texas-la.
Seligman, M. (2018). PERMA and the building blocks of well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13:4, 333-335, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2018.1437466.
Witt, E. (2018, February 19). How the Survivors of Parkland Began the Never Again Movement. The New Yorker, pp. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/how-the-survivors-of-parkland-began-the-never-again-movement.
Yan, H., & Flores, R. (2022, August 5). Uvalde under scrutiny: What we know about the key figures connected to the shooting response. CNN, pp. https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2022/08/us/uvalde-shooting-key-figures/.
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