As mass shootings repeatedly erupt in schools, grocery stores, and other establishments we visit every week, Americans are living in fear. For children and teens, whose mental health is already in crisis, the ongoing backdrop of violence is steadily eroding the sense of well-being, safety, and efficacy known to be essential for healthy development.

On top of recent surges in depression, anxiety, and suicides, a majority of teens now say they worry about a shooting happening at their school (Pew Research Center, 2018). Those concerns have been linked with elevated anxiety levels and fear among students (O’Brien, C., & Taku, K., Personality and Individual Differences, Vol. 186, 2022). Meanwhile, clinical psychologists, including Erika Felix, PhD, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, say the young people they treat are on high alert, constantly planning their escape route if violence breaks out in public.

“These tragedies are happening far too often, and the result is that many young people are feeling this constant back-of-the-mind stress,” Felix said.