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Teen Health 411

Suggestions for Dealing with the Virginia Tech Tragedy

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The events at Virginia Tech shattered everyone's normal sense of urgency as we race towards the end of the school year hoping to participate in events or finish projects and papers. The normal routine may seem less significant in light of this tragedy, as we try to understand the bizarre behavior of one very disturbed young man who struck down his classmates and faculty. For many the calm and safety we so often feel in our lives has vanished and is being replaced with a sense of anxiety and fear.

Below I have listed some things you might want to think about to help address those feelings and bring some calm back into your everyday life, and the lives of the teens you love.
  • Seek out friends with whom you can talk to about your fears and share your concerns (try to avoid those who will escalate your anxiety);
  • Talk with teens about what happened and encourage them to tell you how they are feeling. Help them accept that their reactions, (fear, anxiety, depression etc.) are normal responses to the tragedy but don’t let the conversation wonder off into a sea of speculation and “what ifs;”
  • Sadly, the press has made so many comments regarding Cho’s ethnicity that it has resulted in many people focusing on his ethnicity as though it were the reason for his disturbed behavior. Please make every effort to help students and others recognize that it was his mental illness that caused him to do these horrific things, not his ethnicity;
  • encourage students to stay focused on the task of getting to the end of the school year. This is one of those times when having a ton of things to do can be very useful; and,
  • Be careful of watching too much TV and media news coverage. While it is important to have information, TV and the media can be filled with a lot of hype that only elevates your fears.
Some other reactions you and the teens you love may experience could be irritability, sadness, and perhaps sleeplessness. If you find yourself being angry, irritable or less patient with the people who are closest to you, talk with them and explain why you are reacting this way. Let them know how you are feeling and how this tragedy has had an impact on you. Should these feelings persist for too many days, please do reach out for someone to talk to.

Be kind to yourself. Make time to do good things for yourself and with people you love and who care about you. Remember that none of us is alone. Tell people you care about that you do care.
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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