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Should You Worry About School Violence?

Article Translations: (Spanish)

After hearing news of school shootings or other violence, it's natural for students — no matter how old they are or where they go to school — to worry about whether this type of incident may someday happen to them or their friends.

When a tragedy like this happens, it's normal to feel sad and anxious, and to want to make sense of the situation.

Why Does School Violence Happen?

School violence isn't easy to understand. There is no single reason why students become violent. Some are just following behavior they've seen at home, on the streets, or in video games, movies, or TV. Some are dealing with mental health problems, like depression. Sometimes, people who turn violent are victims of teasing and bullying who've hit a limit and feel like they would do anything to make it stop. They may feel isolated and rejected by their peers. These are only a couple of the reasons why a person may become violent.

There's one thing experts do agree on, though: Having access to guns or other weapons makes it easier for some people to lash out against the things or people they don't like.

What Can I Do?

Someone on the verge of violence may display warning signs. These can include:

  • playing with weapons of any kind
  • bragging about acts of violence he or she would like to commit
  • showing an obsession with violent movies or playing violent games
  • bullying or threatening other people
  • cruelty to pets or other animals

If you start feeling unsafe at school, talk to a trusted adult. That person could be a teacher, parent, school counselor, or religious leader. It can be difficult to report violence — after all, we are taught not to tell on others.

But many schools have set up ways to report bullying or the possibility of violence anonymously. Maybe your school has (or could set up) an anonymous hotline for people to share concerns without worrying that they may be found telling on another student.

If you've witnessed or experienced violence of any kind, not talking about it can make feelings build up inside and cause problems such as depression, anxiety, and fear. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop in someone who has lived through a traumatic event, such as a serious car accident, physical or sexual abuse, or a shooting.

You don't have to be hurt to have PTSD — for some people, simply watching a traumatic event or being threatened with great physical harm is enough to trigger it. That's why it's important to get help. School counselors can be a good place to start — they're familiar with the issues in your school and can help you put things in perspective.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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