Friday, October 7, 2022

Mental health counselors say it’s important to talk to students about Texas shooting


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – Lowcountry mental health counselors say it’s important to talk to students about the Texas shooting that took the lives of more than a dozen children.

Elizabeth Wofford is a licensed professional counselor with her PhD specializing in trauma and says trauma can manifest in lots of different ways which is why you should talk about it.

“It takes our safety, our sense of safety away altogether,” Wofford said. “Like when we have a car accident, all of a sudden we are very aware that every time we get in the car, we could be in an accident. And so that’s the same thing here. They are realizing every time I go to school, something could happen.”

She says as kids prepare to go to school they should be prepared with a conversation about how they feel and what to do if they get nervous.

“It is not going be an easy conversation. And so I think parents need to prepare themselves first. They need to ground themselves, if they need to go and cry and get their own fear, a little bit more settled. That is the best place to start from because kids are going to feed off our emotions,” Wofford said.

Kristin Kimes is a licensed social worker who works at Trident Medical Center and she agrees, people with kids should check in with themselves too.

“As a parents, I think it’s important for us to even self-reflect, and as adults think how this impacts us how and how we’re feeling about it,” Kimes said.

She says to give a basic background to your kid depending on their age and see if they have questions.

“It depends on the age and developmental level of the child. But if a child is asking their parent, I think they just are looking for comfort and support as well as out of curiosity, how this might affect them, their safety and the world around them,” Kimes said.

Kimes and Wofford said between the news cycle and social media, kids are going to know what’s going on so you shouldn’t try to hide it from them.

If they have questions, they need to be answered.

Wofford says sometimes stress can impact kids in a physical way like stomachaches, not sleeping due to nightmares, or jumpiness.

“It’s okay. It’s normal,” Wofford said. “But what we don’t want is to get stuck. So it may be a matter of a couple of days. If those symptoms aren’t subsiding, then it’s definitely worth seeking out a professional.”

Trident Medical Center, through its parent company, HCA Healthcare, is working with national agencies regarding providing mental health resources for students.

In 2020 they announced a collaboration with EVERFI, a technology company, to put mental health and wellness education in middle and high schools. On Tuesday, HCA announced it will donate $1.38 million over the next three years to Girl Scouts of the USA to start work on creating a series of workshops aimed at addressing mental wellness among girls.

Kimes and Wofford both said how important it is to acknowledge the event without overwhelming a child.

“I would limit as much exposure to news as possible,” Wofford said. “The more details the more images they have, the more traumatic that can be because it overwhelms again their ability to cope. So what you want to do is give the age appropriate explanation of what happened.”

You can find a map of Department of Health facilities in South Carolina here.

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