Uvalde children grappling with trauma after school massacre

UVALDE, Texas (AP) – A girl runs and hides when she sees thin guys with long hair The gunman who broke into his Uvalde school killed 21 people. One boy stopped making friends and playing with animals. A third child feels her heartbeat as she remembers the May 24 massacre in which a close friend was killed – once at such an alarming pace that she had to be taken to the hospital, where she remained for weeks.

The 11-year-old girl is suffering from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She and her family spoke to The Associated Press on condition that her name would not be used to protect her identity.

“I’ve never lost anyone before,” she said, adding that her friend who was one of the 19 students and two teachers killed in the deadliest school massacre in the United States in a decade encouraged her through tough times. Will do “She was a very strong person.”

As students prepare to return to school in Uvalde for the first time since the massacre at Rob Elementary, symptoms of PTSD begin to appear. Parents are finding themselves unable to help, and experts worry as communities of color, such as the largely Hispanic city of Uvalde, face inequalities in access to mental health care. For low-income families, this can be even more difficult, as access to limited resources requires long waits for referrals through medical assistance programs such as Medicaid.

“It’s hard to hear what these kids are doing at such a young age,” said Yuri Castro, a mother of two boys in Uvalde, whose cousin was killed in the shooting and whose sons were once tutored by two slain teachers. Castro knows the children are in such shock that they have stopped speaking.

Marcela Cabralez straightens the hair of her granddaughter, Jalisa Ybarra, at her home in Uvalde, Texas, on Monday, August 30, 2022.  Jalissa, 9, was in the cafeteria at Rob Elementary when a shooter entered the school and opened fire, killing 19 students and 2 teachers.  Jalisa has had nightmares in the months following the shooting and expressed nervousness about going back to school.
Marcela Cabralez straightens the hair of her granddaughter, Jalisa Ybarra, at her home in Uvalde, Texas, on Monday, August 30, 2022. Jalissa, 9, was in the cafeteria at Rob Elementary when a shooter entered the school and opened fire, killing 19 students and 2 teachers. Jalisa has had nightmares in the months following the shooting and expressed nervousness about going back to school.

Sergio Flores / The Washington Post via Getty Images

school shooting Dramatically elevate the lives of survivors. For some, symptoms persist for years and it can be difficult to find high-quality treatment.

In recent years, Texas lawmakers have focused on spending money on mental health services, which totaled more than $2.5 billion during the current fiscal year.

But according to the family of the 11-year-old girl — a lifelong resident of Uvalde — the area’s only mental health center — just a few blocks away from Rob Elementary — was rarely used or discussed, leading to increased awareness of signs and symptoms. There was growing concern about shortages. Mental illness and the stigma surrounding seeking help.

The mother of an 11-year-old girl whose racing heart hospitalized her says open conversations about mental health were previously taboo in the heavily Latino community, where, culturally, mental health was viewed as being lazy, bored or throwing a tantrum. as brushed.

“I remember growing up it was like, ‘There you go, you’re just getting chiflada,'” the mother said, using a Spanish word that means “acting poorly.”

Now, she said, the city is waking up to the reality of mental health, even as some people still ask why survivors like her daughter need help.

Community members are supporting one another by checking in with extended family and friends, and by taking advantage of community resources established by the Red Cross, including counseling and emotional support from churches. The parents of one of the children killed started an organization that would put together a wilderness retreat for the victims’ families and survivors. Residents also have social media groups where they can share mental health resources and express their grief.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission contracted with organizations to create a mental health hotline, which answered nearly 400 calls in six weeks.

Martha Rodriguez, who coordinated efforts to help students recover Mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, said officials need to visit the community to make sure the right resources are available. He said it is important to address the stigma and send providers who understand the language and values ​​of families.

“Some families may not feel comfortable sharing distress and needs,” she said.

The family arrives at Uvalde Elementary School on Monday, August 30, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas to tour the new campus and meet with faculty members.
The family arrives at Uvalde Elementary School on Monday, August 30, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas to tour the new campus and meet with faculty members.

Sergio Flores / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Many of the families affected by the shootings are Roman Catholic. The mother of one girl who survived the attack said her daughter had only been able to untie a priest in Houston – 280 miles (450 kilometers) away – that the family visits to visit relatives.

“It’s going to be a long journey. It’s not going to be something that we can just do some work on and fix it,” said San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Silar.

Julie Kaplo, director of the Trauma and Gum Center at Texas Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital New Orleans, said many of the students who survived in May 2018 Santa Fe High School Shooting In suburban Houston, 10 people did not show symptoms for six months after the death.

“I’m guessing we’ll see some similarities,” said Kapalo, who is training physicians and others who are treating families in Uvalde. “Part of the reason is that those symptoms have not yet appeared and will begin to appear when they are reminded of the event. Or the caregiver begins to recognize, ‘Wait a minute my baby still isn’t eating. Still not sleeping.'”

The duration of treatment varies depending on the severity of the symptoms. For some, it can last two to three years.

Melissa Bramer, director of terrorism and disaster programs at the UCLA-Duke National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, was the principal counselor for public schools in Newtown, Connecticut. Massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, He said the authorities need to ensure that families can get services in the school. They also need to create places that feel friendly, like community dining, rather than clinics.

Parents of an incoming fifth grader who is battling symptoms chose to home-school her this year so she could go to appointments more easily. He’s also getting a service dog that will alert him when his heart rate is rising.

But she worries about her brothers returning to class and worries that others will judge her because of how she was affected by the massacre when she was not shot, her mother said. She wakes up every day with night terrors.

“We can’t sleep. … We don’t even know what it is now, because it happened,” said the mother. “I have to deal with it, no matter how long it takes him to recover.”

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