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‘Anyone can suffer from PTSD’: Trauma haunts survivors

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Post-traumatic stress disorder is often linked to soldiers or people who have been through war, but survivor’s guilt and trauma can impact just about anyone.

On March 17, a little more than a year after the deadly Parkland school shooting, Majory Stoneman Douglas graduate Sydney Aiello took her own life. Over the next two weeks, another Parkland survivor and the father of a Sandy Hook victim did the same.

"There were many similarities, from what I've read about the reactions from the survivors of the Parkland shooting for example and veterans that I've worked with from combat situations," says Branden Lyon, BRAINS Therapist.

Tragedies from school massacres eventually fade from headlines, but for the survivors the pain is not as quick to disappear.

The National Center for PTSD estimates that 28 percent of people who witness mass shootings develop the disorder, and it is proof that more than veterans are impacted.

"That's probably the strongest image we have for PTSD, but anyone can suffer from PTSD under the right circumstances," says Lyon.

According to her family, Aiello was suffering from both PTSD and survivor's guilt.

"I think people hear that word PTSD all of a sudden a wall comes up like ‘oh something big happened,’” says Shandy Longcore, who can relate to that pain.

At 10 years old, Longcore put a riffle to her chest and tried to end her life. After recovery and therapy, she's worked to make sure that doesn't happen to anyone else.

"It's sad in the way in a way that we need it but I'm happy we as a society and West Michigan are responding to this topic of suicide," Longcore said.

She wants the recent deaths to start a conversation about the long-term effects of trauma.

"We need to check in on our loved ones we need to connect with them. ‘Are you ok?’ or if you haven't had the conversation about suicide with your teenager, have it," Longcore said.

For anyone experiencing survivors guilt or PTSD, or if you know someone facing a crisis, call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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