To date in 2015, there have been 45 school or university shootings in the U.S. In many situations, the shooter is suffering with some form of mental illness or inability to cope with stress at home. The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) supports and promotes access to pediatric health care providers who can provide early assessment and treatment for behavioral health issues and provides resources to help affected community members, especially children and adolescents, to cope.
“Forty-five shootings in nine months is an alarmingly high number that calls for all of us to focus on the health and safety of our nation’s children and young adults,” said NAPNAP President Cathy Haut, DNP, CPNP-AC, CPNP-PC, CCRN. “Recognizing that a child may suffer from mental illness and need pediatric-focused treatment could play a key role in prevention of future tragic events like the shooting yesterday at Umpqua Community College.”
A significant portion of pediatric nurse practitioners are primary care providers. In crisis situations like school shootings, they may counsel caregivers on how to talk with children and teens about stress and anxiety from school violence. “As part of ongoing primary care and wellness, they are responsible for identifying and referring patients to specialists,” said Dr. Haut. NAPNAP’s Developmental Behavioral and Mental Health special interest group has compiled several resources to address behavioral health issues and techniques to help parents communicate to children on how to deal stress, anxiety and violence in school and among peers.
Coping with stress, grief and loss is not limited to children. If a parent or caregiver is unable to cope with anxiety, the child will recognize this and become anxious as well. In 2013, NAPNAP released A Practical Guide to Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Second Edition, which features coping strategies for parents, teenagers and children.
“Overcoming stress, grief or loss is not something that can be done alone. As parents, we need to make sure our children know that we are always there for them to talk when times get tough,” said Dr. Haut.