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Getting through a mass shooting leaves scars even for survivors who aren't shot

Posted: 10:19 PM, Nov 08, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-08 22:19:58-05

CINCINNATI -- Grant Stanley remembers the day he was in an active shooter situation as if it were yesterday. 

"Just seeing all of the active law enforcement around puts you on pins and needles," Stanley said. "Hearing those sirens and piercings and stepping outside and seeing what I was witnessing -- a lot of people were around me and we were just like, 'What's going on?'"

That day, he was taking care of seven special needs students. 

"One of my students said I went into dad mode," Stanley said. "I'm not a father, but I'm doing what a father would do: Protect their kids."

He said the memory of the event is so vivid, he takes it with him wherever he goes. He isn't alone. Getting through a mass shooting can leave scars even for survivors such as Stanley who weren't struck by a bullet. Many who are involved in similar incidents later find themselves needing support for anxiety or other mental health issues.

"I look for exit doors," Stanley said. "I look for places that, if something were to come down, where can I hide, what can I do?"

Professional clinical counselor Shantel Thomas said she's seen similar reactions in clients. 

"Especially if they were in an active shooter situation," Thomas said. "Yes, they want to sit by the door, or they're checking for the exits. There's noting wrong with that."

She said this type of fear, especially after a traumatic event, is normal. The feelings should go away after seven to 21 days. 

"Talking yourself down from being anxious is very important and then going through some breathing exercises is very helpful," Thomas said. 

She said if the anxiety lasts longer than two to three months, the person experiencing it should seek out a mental health professional.