CHICAGO (CBS)– In the last week, two survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and the father of a 6-year old girl killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting took their own lives.
These suicides show the lasting impact on survivors of such traumas.
Dr. Sheela Raja, clinical psychologist and author, joined CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot to discuss ways to talk about and cope with the feelings that remain following such tragedies.
“Survivor’s guilt is actually very normal when someone has undergone something as horrific as a mass shooting,” Raja said. “You look back and say, ‘wow is there something I could have done or said differently to prevent this?’”
She said after traumatic experiences, it is normal to have thoughts of survivor’s guilt. However, if these thoughts are interfering with daily life, Raja recommends seeking professional help.
After these incidents, active shooter drills have become more common. Raja said these drills may actually have a negative impact on survivors.
“The message of the drills are if we just say or do some of the right things we may be able to save lives. We might be able to get out of there,” she said. “These things are horrific and unpredictable. It’s really hard in that case to know what the right thing to do is. The right thing is whatever you do to survive.”
Raja said when trying to support survivors, it is important to know this is a mental health problem in terms of suicide risk, but dealing with gun violence is also a public health problem.
“We need mental health and public health professionals as well as lawmakers at the table to solve this problem,” She said. “We need to do something as a community to stop this from happening again.”
Raja wrote “The PTSD Survival Guide For Teens.”
If you or someone you know is struggling, help is out there. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This is a free and confidential service.