Much posttraumatic stress disorder among Virginia Tech students after the April 2007 shooting incident that left 32 dead was due to several factors other than being directly attacked or injured. About 15 percent of the 4,369 students surveyed three or four months after the shooting reported PTSD symptoms, said Michael Hughes, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at Virginia Tech, and colleagues in the journal Psychological Trauma.
The largest single factor explaining PTSD symptoms was the inability to confirm the safety of friends (30 percent), followed by the death of a (not close) friend (20 percent), and the death of a close friend (10 percent). As a result, students with PTSD symptoms were not a small, obvious group with direct exposure to death and injury, but were widely scattered around the campus. These “high-prevalence, low-impact stressors” call for a “broad-based outreach to find students needing mental health treatment interventions,” said the researchers.
For more on violence and mental illness and the Virginia Tech shooting, see Psychiatric News at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/42/10/1.1.full and http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/14/3.full.
Read more about this topic in American Psychiatric Publishing's Disaster Psychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment by Frederick Stoddard, M.D., et al. at