Valdosta health official speaks about the mental health impact of school threats

Valdosta health official speaks about the mental health impact of school threats
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 4:46 PM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - In the wake of active shooter threats across Georgia on Wednesday, WALB’s Jim Wallace sat down with a local health official to see what impact those threats could have on the mental health of students and teachers.

The active-shooter hoax at Valdosta High School and across the state of Georgia yesterday, you are saying this is something counselors and parents should not just brush aside now that it’s happened.

“Yes, absolutely.  We’ve noticed that after things like this, children, their families, the community. Sometimes experience symptoms that they may not recognize right away. So we’re talking mainly about acute stress disorder. When things like this happen, at the time, some people go into that.  Fight or flight, and sometimes their bodies have a hard time, in sort of moving away from that. Going back into a regular functioning state. So we encounter families. We encourage children, teachers, first responders to sort of look for those. Just in case we see some of those symptoms after a situation like this,” Alyson Stuckart, the director of clinical services for Greenleaf Psychiatric Hospital in Valdosta, said.

I know in the military of course they call it PTSD. You are talking about symptoms almost like that.

“Yes, absolutely. So when kids are hiding under desks and teachers are trying to figure out where danger is. I mean in the moment of course they think that something pretty severe is taking place. Right, and so it can be very similar to those symptoms,” Stuckart said.

What kind of symptoms should people look out for?

“If you are feeling anxious, if you are feeling some sort of danger when there may not be, hypervigilance is one of those as well. Racing thoughts, anything that is abnormal for you,” Stuckart said.

And Greenleaf offers help for people like this?

“Yes, absolutely. So we actually have outpatient, where we have groups that will process. You know when people have experienced these things. So we will go over coping skills. We will go over experiences in trauma. How to communicate with others and ask for help. And then our inpatient does a really good job managing people who experience very similar expressions of PTSD. Where they are hyper-vigilant, they are anxious all the time. They have stress they can’t manage. So Greenleaf really tries to support the community and individuals when we have active shooter situations like that,” Stuckart said.