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Mental health experts note intense emotions surround one-year mark of MSU shooting

Michigan State University students embrace at The Rock on campus, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. Police say the gunman who killed himself hours after fatally shooting three students at Michigan State University was 43-year-old Anthony McRae. Police also say five people who are in critical condition Tuesday are also students. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Michigan State University students embrace at The Rock on campus, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. Police say the gunman who killed himself hours after fatally shooting three students at Michigan State University was 43-year-old Anthony McRae. Police also say five people who are in critical condition Tuesday are also students. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Michigan State University community may be feeling a range of emotions as the one-year mark of an on-campus shooting approaches.

Whether you're experiencing stress, anxiety, lingering trauma or just feeling unsettled, mental health experts say you're not alone.

"At the anniversary time, the symptoms can be brought back up to the surface," said Alyse Folino Ley, an associate professor of psychiatry at MSU.

"It's important that we're aware of how we're doing and how our colleagues and students and staff are doing."

Alyse Folino Ley is a professor in MSU's Department of Psychiatry.
Courtesy
Alyse Folino Ley is a professor in MSU's Department of Psychiatry.

Ley is a member of multiple gun violence prevention and mental health organizations and says people who survive mass shootings might feel intense stress during and immediately after an incident.

But any symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or other conditions can be delayed, and a diagnosis can emerge well after the event.

“You can see many symptoms, including disruption of sleep, hyper vigilance. You can see reoccurrence of unwanted thoughts and then feeling as though you're even back on the night of February 13th,” Ley said.

In the aftermath, Ley said community members might also be experiencing survivor’s guilt, feeling that they’re at fault for living through a tragic incident when others did not.

“Those feelings, although they don't feel normal, that guilt, that shame, in an abnormal circumstance, those things are usual," she said.

People may feel a range of emotions during the anniversary of the shooting, noted Ley, saying those experiences are all valid. Over time, she added, people are often able to come to terms with difficult experiences they go through.

“With time and with the proper care and treatment, these issues resolve," she said. "Human beings are incredibly resilient. That's what I've learned in my line of work.”

Ley said some people can work through their challenges on their own. Others may need additional support. She said changes in behavior, like difficulty sleeping or recurring nightmares, could be a sign.

“If you're having those unwanted intrusive memories that are triggered by sights or smells or sounds, any of those things, it's time to talk to somebody.”

MSU has resources available through the psychiatry and psychology departments for community members who need help. Other resources include Counseling and Psychiatric Services and the Employee Assistance Program for faculty and staff.

The crisis service agency Common Ground is also opening a resiliency center off-campus, where anyone impacted by the shooting is encouraged to stop by.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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