Even those with no ties to Virginia Tech may experience trauma over shooting, counselor says

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Students, faculty and staff members at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, as well as residents of the town of Blacksburg, are still reeling from yesterday's mass shooting on campus by a lone gunman, who killed more than 30 people and injured more than 20 before killing himself.

An associate professor of counseling, development and higher education at the University of North Texas says that even those living hundreds of miles away from Virginia, with no ties to Virginia Tech, can experience trauma over an event such as yesterday's shooting, which eclipsed the 1991 Luby's Cafeteria massacre in Killeen as the nation's deadliest mass shooting.

Dr. John Hipple, a senior staff member at the UNT Counseling and Testing Center, has worked with college students who have experienced traumatic events. He says that it's normal for many college students, even those far away from Virginia, to be shaken over the shooting.

"They're comrades-in-arm, so to speak, with the students at Virginia Tech. This happens among any group in which members are killed, such as police officers. Many college students will also be wondering if their campuses are safe enough," he says.

Hipple says reactions to an event such as a mass shooting are highly different, with some people not being very affected and others reacting with extreme stress.

"For a person who was already experiencing emotional stress before the event, particularly the unexpected death of someone close to him or her, an event with many deaths could be the straw that breaks the camel's back," he says. "Some people may also get upset and think they're weird because they're not reacting. Others may have a delayed grief reaction, with what happened not hitting them for a week or a month, and they may think they're weird, too. But all are normal reactions to trauma."

Hipple advises any person who feels scared or confused over the Virginia Tech shooting to discuss his or her feelings with someone - particularly a close family member or friend.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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