After tragedies, put mental health first

Illustrated by Gaby Fantone

The deadliest mass shooting in modern American history took place on Oct. 1 at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. 58 people were killed and close to 500 people were injured when a gunman opened fire on about 22,000 concert attendees.

Hundreds of miles away at Chapman, President Struppa emailed the Chapman community saying that one student had been injured in the shooting.

“I wish all of us strength as we face this terrible tragedy, and I ask that we all come together as a community to support each other, and to reaffirm the values on which Chapman was founded,” he wrote.

Inside the Fish Interfaith Center Oct. 2, there were candles and a notebook for students to reflect and honor victims. On Oct. 7, the university held a candle-lighting ceremony.

But for the Chapman students who attended the concert, it’s going to take a long time to recover from the trauma of hearing gunshots, seeing dead bodies and running for their lives. Professors need to understand this.

It should not come as a shock that students who have just witnessed a massive tragedy will need to take time off from school. When junior public relations and advertising major Freida Freeman, who attended the concert with her older sister, left class to visit a counselor, she said her professor lacked “compassion.”

A few days earlier, she had been in the middle of a crime scene, where a woman was yelling at her to use her as a human shield. Freeman told The Panther that she hadn’t even had time to hug her parents. But somehow, she is expected to sit through class. A professor disallowing a student to seek help after experiencing this kind of trauma is unacceptable.

This week, The Panther decided to devote our issue to the topic of health, because as a staff, we agree that health deserves to be a priority in students’ lives – and that includes mental health. The status of a student’s mental health has to be taken seriously, especially after such a traumatic incident like the one in Las Vegas.

The university needs to be aware that some students may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the shooting.

“The initial relief to be alive may be followed by distress, fear and anger. Survivors of mass shootings may find it hard to stop thinking about what happened, have trouble sleeping or feel keyed up or on edge,” according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

The effects of traumatic stress are not only emotional and cognitive, but can also be physical.

Traumatic stress victims often experience symptoms like fatigue, exhaustion, cardiovascular strain and even increased physical pain. But students should never have to get to the point where their mental health is so impacted that their physical health starts to decline. Even students who weren’t physically there may be feeling the after effects of a national tragedy, especially if they had friends or family who were in Las Vegas during the shooting.

After the presidential election last fall, many professors canceled class, the idea being that some students would need time to cope with the idea that Donald Trump would be president. One professor even screened the final inning of the World Series in class to cheer students up. Students who have experienced a mass shooting need to be extended the same courtesy, especially if they are missing class for something as crucial as visiting a counselor to talk about their trauma.

Mental health needs to be a priority. While only one Chapman student was physically injured during the shooting, others have emotional scars that need just as much attention and care.

1 Comment

  • The overall message of this editorial is a undoubtably a good one. But, let’s talk about one thing: I get the sentiment, and I don’t like Trump either — but comparing his election with the Las Vegas mass shooting? That’s just lazy writing. Be it intentional logic or an unfortunate misreading on my part, equating Chapman students who survived the most harrowing shooting in U.S. HISTORY with students like me who were extremely upset about Donald Trump winning is tacky at best and completely detached/disgusting at worst. Do better for our surviving students’ sake — what we Trump-dissenters went through on November 8 absolutely, positively PALES in every perceivable manner of comparison with what the survivors went through on October 1. I really can’t believe I’m having to say any of this.

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