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A look at how young survivors of mass shootings deal with trauma from the Uvalde, Texas massacre

The community of Uvalde, Texas is still reeling two weeks after a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School, killing 19 students and two teachers. Among those who suffer are young survivors who witnessed the horror.

As survivors of past school shootings move on, the psychological hurt that comes with witnessing such events often lingers.

Since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, at least 185 children, teachers and others have been murdered and 369 injured in shootings at US schools, according to a Washington Post database.

And over the past two decades, 311,000 children in more than 330 schools have been exposed to gun violence during school hours, according to the database.

WATCH: Uvalde teacher describes the moment he saw the shooter, trying to protect students

Last year, there were 42 acts of gun violence on campus at K-12 schools across the United States, according to gun violence prevention organization Sandy Hook Promise and the Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

Yet the mental wounds caused by school shootings have spread far beyond hospital beds.

“They have this terrible, horrible memory,” said Dr. Amanda Wetegrove-Romine, a San Antonio psychologist who attended Uvalde High School and assisted community counseling services in the days following the shooting. Uvalde.

RELATED: Boy Who Survived Texas School Shooting Recalls Gunman Saying, ‘You’re All Gonna Die’

Children had nightmares and clung to their parents, she said.

Year three student Jeremiah Lennon, 8, feared he would be killed if he returned to school after surviving a shooting in a classroom next to the room where three of his friends were killed. He was changed by the shooting, said his grandmother Brenda Morales, now sitting quietly, not eating much and just staring off into space.

“He changed. Everything changed,” she said.

Aalayah Eastmond was 16 when gunfire filled the halls of her high school – Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida – in the 2018 attack that left 14 students and three staff members dead. In the years that followed, she learned that a new school was apparently shooting “every day.”

“We were the third class in which the attacker shot. Six of my classmates were shot and two died in my class,” Eastmond said.

SEE ALSO: Mass shootings in the United States have almost tripled since 2013, data shows

Mia Tretta was also a teenager, just 15, when a gunman charged into Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California and shot her. Two classmates were killed, including her best friend, who died next to her in the attack.

“Every time I see another shooting happen, it brings everything back to me,” she said.

Eastmond and Tretta said their experiences changed their lives forever.

“Whenever you walk into a crowded area, you will always feel it,” Tretta said. “You can always do your best to improve a little bit, even if it’s just a tiny bit each day.”

Mental health experts have said that since most of the victims were children, the trauma can have a particularly lasting impact.

“They’re at an important stage in their development. Their worldview is forming and they’re learning if the world is safe or unsafe,” said Dr. Arash Javanbakht, who runs the Stress, Trauma and Stress Research Clinic. anxiety from Wayne State University.

“Trauma stays with children for the rest of their lives,” he said, adding that childhood trauma has been linked to a host of health issues later in life.

MORE: What we know about 21 victims of the Uvalde school shooting

Columbine survivors, now adults, have spoken out in recent days to say news of the shooting has reopened the wounds of their trauma.

Mental health experts have said a range of support will be needed for survivors, starting with what is known as ‘psychological first aid’ immediately after counseling sessions to dealing with symptoms of trauma which can last for months or even years. The ability of the community to come together to heal will also be crucial, with parents playing an important role in discussing emotions with their children.

“Support and connection with community members and fellow survivors can be a powerful source of resilience, collective memory, collective healing and purpose,” said Nicole Nugent, an expert in post-stress stress disorder treatment. traumatic who works as a professor of psychiatry and humanities. behavior at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School.

The long-term healing process after a school shooting is different for everyone, said Melissa Brymer, a physician who specializes in childhood traumatic stress and senior counselor for the Newtown Public Schools Recovery Program after the Sandy Hook Massacre. Elementary in 2012.

“There are appropriate treatments for trauma that can help children, both with their trauma reactions and their grief reactions,” she said. “We also know that these events change children. We really want to foster their strengths as they go through this healing journey.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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