Straight Talk Advice

School shootings create fear of school

Oct 20, 2015

Victims of anxiety top the list due to school shootings

Dear Straight Talk: This sounds weird, but after the shootings in Oregon and with school shootings regular news, I’m afraid of school. I’m a good student but my obsessive thoughts and fears that someone will snap won’t stop and my anxiety is causing concentration problems. My mom says it won’t happen and to just stop worrying. But how? —Scared Senior in Marin County, California

Karlee 18, Bentleyville, Pennsylvania Ask me a question

I also have crippling anxiety. Behind the wheel, I worry about crashing. Walking campus at night, I worry about being murdered. I definitely fear school shootings — especially living at college. I imagine the shooter’s entry, where I’d hide, what I'd say. It's terrifying, this evil. I use a technique called grounding. You find five things you can see. Four things you can hear. Three you can touch. Two you can smell. One you can taste. It makes me stop and breathe and say this is what’s real; that was my mind.

Nick 19, Corte Madera, California Ask me a question

I felt the same way my senior year. You can't say it won't happen because it can. For me, the anxiety eventually went away when I realized it was out of my control, thus not worth thinking about. And odds are, it won’t happen.

Brie 24, London, England Ask me a question

While at university in San Francisco, I always had my eyes peeled. What helped was reminding myself of the extremely low statistical probability. The U.S. has the deadly combo of a mental health crisis and easy access to firearms — boosted by media glorification. In Europe, mass shootings are comparatively rare, not because bullying doesn't happen, but with national health care, fewer slip through the cracks. The Swiss have a unique approach to guns. Military service is required for all males, like Boy Scouts for men. They grow up a lot, get firearms training and keep their service rifle at home. U.S. gun ownership would benefit from at least the rigorous training and standards required for a driver license.

Elle 19, Boca Raton, Florida Ask me a question

Being homeschooled, this wasn’t an issue, but theaters make me wary. Knowing Christ, though, I am calm, even as I would have been on the deceased list in Oregon. If you're not religious, the concept of soul or destiny could help.

Lara 24, Vienna, Austria Ask me a question

I’m a believer in facing fears. However, for fears one cannot control like natural disasters, fluke accidents, or school shootings, the best calming activities are meditation, positive visualization and journaling. Meditation also helps with concentration.

Brandon 23, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

I hate what’s happening in our country. Columbine seemed like a folk tale in 1999 — now it’s the norm. When my son entered school this year, I considered homeschooling to protect him, but then adopted a (perhaps troubling) mentality. I decided not to dwell on the fact that my son, or I (in college), could be shot. You’re more likely to die driving to get your iced coffee from some kid taking a selfie. Constant worry about dying is hardly living.

Samantha 23, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

We feel safe when we can control things. Activate what you can control: treating others kindly, being a squeaky wheel about campus safety, or seeing a counselor.

Dear Scared: The victim list is higher than it appears. You’ve opened many eyes today to the prevalence of student anxiety around school shootings — a level perhaps unprecedented during peacetime. You are smart to seek help as anxiety dampens learning and fuels addictions and acting out. Pick from the panelists’ suggestions: faith, grounding, meditation, positive visualizations, logic of statistics, counseling, and/or working toward preventatives. The most effective, affordable, and politically do-able preventative I know of is the Safe School Ambassadors program, which has created peaceful student cultures in over 1500 schools. Consider petitioning your school to carry it.

  1. By Carla, age 17, from Santa Rosa, California on 10/25/2015

    No one has mentioned the effect of bullying on school shootings.  While it does not appear to have been a factor in the Oregon shootings, it was a major factor behind the Columbine shootings and other school shootings.  I am not saying that being bullied justifies this, as it obviously does not.  However, the emotional toll that this takes on a young teenager can lead to thoughts of violence. 

    I say this because my sister is constantly bullied for being gay as is her girlfriend who is now her only friend other than me.  She is no longer invited to slumber parties because no one wants to undress in front of her, and she is also hassled in the locker room and sometimes even in the girls’ bathroom when she’s only there to do what everyone else does in the bathroom.  Even my own (former) best friend refused to continue to have sleepovers in our room because of this as she didn’t want to undress in front of someone who would “get off” by seeing her nude body even though she had previously undressed in front of my sister many times without incident.  As has been written about many times in Straight Talk and as someone who shares a room with and undresses every day in front of someone who is gay, I can say that this is no problem whatsoever!

    My sister goes back and forth between having suicidal thoughts to having violent thoughts toward those who bully her and is very depressed all the time.  She has even said that she “would like to kill” the girls who bully her the most.  I don’t think she would really do this, but I’m still really concerned about her.  I’ve told her that I think she should get counseling which she could get through our insurance, but she says it wouldn’t do any good since it wouldn’t stop the bullying.  Any yes, our school has a no bullying policy, but as other have written it is worthless.


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    1. By F.H., age 16, from Carmichael, CA on 10/25/2015

      I feel the same way.  I am also bullied for being gay, and sometimes feel that I would like to kill the bullies who make my life hell.  I am stable enough that I am confident that I would not act on these feelings, but I can understand how it could push some people over the edge and cause a violent reaction and even shooting.  As Carla says, this doesn’t mean that it would be justified, but I can understand how it can happen. There are guys who stand in front of me naked in the locker room after taking a shower and say things like, “Want to suck my dick, faggot?”  Who wouldn’t get hateful feelings from treatment like this?

      I even get these feelings about my own stepmom.  I have a stepbrother 3 years younger than I am, and we are both only children.  We were becoming like real brothers and he really liked having me as a “big brother” and I liked having him as a “little brother.”  We got along great sharing his room during visitations.  However, when I came out as being gay, my stepmom freaked out about it and said that we could no longer share a room or even be home alone together or go out and do things alone together.  She says that she is not prejudiced against gays and accepts my sexual orientation.  However, she says that she “must protect her son” and that it is a fact that many gays are attracted to young boys so she can’t have me sleeping in his room and undressing in front of each other.  Therefore, I have to sleep on the living room couch which is uncomfortable and I have no privacy.  Sharing a room had been no problem.  He wasn’t shy about undressing in front of me just like I assume it is with most brothers (or sisters) who share a room, and seeing him naked gave me no sexual arousal whatsoever!  What had become a great brotherly like relationship has now been ruined!  What bugs me the most is that my stepmom goes out of her way to be super nice to me and fixes my favorite meals when I’m there as if to say “See, I have nothing against you because you are gay.”  However, when it comes to her son, she has everything against me! My dad is a total wimp about this and has given in to my stepmom even though he has told me in confidence that he knows that I would never do anything wrong with my stepbrother. 

      This causes me to have hateful feelings and thoughts of violence against her.  Just as with the bullies, I would never act on these feelings.  However, I can understand why some people lose control when they are treated this way.


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      1. By LAUREN, from on 10/27/2015

        F.H.—It’s horrible the way you are treated (and not just by juveniles). It’s been pretty clear from our readers that gay boys are treated much worse than gay girls on high school campuses. We have gotten so much mail on it lately that I was planning a full column on it had Straight Talk not be ending in 4 weeks (see our newest post).

        I’m glad you wrote in as someone who would never follow through on such feelings of revenge, yet can relate to them. It helps everyone gain more understanding. In our culture of guns and mental illness, you can only ridicule and push people so far before you create a potentially very dangerous situation.

        As I wrote to Carla, The Safe School Ambassador program that I mention is all about bullying prevention and was inspired by Columbine. It works from the inside out by working with the most popular kids since everyone follows their lead. It has created true peaceful school cultures in over 1500 schools. It is not just a no-bullying policy, which do seem totally worthless. I beg you to check it out and implore your school to carry it.

        I put a live link above to it, and you can also read our full column on it here.

        If your parents will pay for counseling go for it. Or see the school counselor. They can not only help you find additional inner peace around this, the school counselors could be instrumental in pushing for the Safe School Ambassador program if they knew about it from you.

        Thank you so much for writing and I hope things get better. Please know they WILL get better as soon as you graduate. In college and the workplace, this kind of treatment is basically nonexistent. Sending love—Lauren

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    2. By LAUREN, from on 10/27/2015

      Carla—Thank you for writing and I’m so sorry for what is happening to your sister. The Safe School Ambassador program that I mention is all about bullying prevention—we have done many columns on it and the program was inspired by Columbine. It works from the inside out by transforming the 40 most popular kids on campus since everyone follows their lead. It has created true peaceful school cultures in over 1500 schools. It is not just a no-bullying “policy”, which do seem totally worthless. I beg you to check it out and ask your school to carry it… it’s incredibly low priced for what it is! I put a live link above to it, and you can also read our full column on it here.

      Regarding your sister, tell here that while counseling won’t change the bullying, it could change her reaction it. Activating her own power to decide how to be affected by something is our top power as a human. I send my love—Lauren

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