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Managing mental health after deadly UVA shooting

A memorial gathering outside of a University of Virginia building.
File photo
Reuters Connect
Professionals say a traumatic event like the recent deadly shooting on The University of Virginia campus could have long term impacts on students’ mental health.

Virginians are managing the aftermath of another tragic shooting on one of the Commonwealth’s college campuses. Three University of Virginia student athletes, Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. And D’Sean Perry, were killed and two others injured Sunday night. Fellow student Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. has been charged with their murders.

UVA students gathered on campus to mourn the deaths of their classmates Tuesday evening. It’s the first in a series of steps to manage the grieving process after a violent loss. This latest tragedy is yet another stressor that Virginia’s college students are now coping with.


Executive Director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s counseling services, Dr. Jihad Aziz says he’s seen a significant uptick in the need for care.

“The number of students seeking services had increased before the pandemic. The pandemic only just made it worse.” Dr. Aziz said he’s seen, “more students with significant mental health concerns mostly around anxiety, depression and feeling isolated.”

Dr. Aziz said Virginia’s college campuses are equipped to deal with an increased need for mental health care after traumatic events.

“The challenge of a crisis is when it happens.. people seek their family and friends.” Dr. Aziz said struggling after trauma is a normal response, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to look out for those who may be having a hard time.

“It's one of the things that we try to do with faculty and staff as we take a community approach to mental health.” Dr. Aziz recommended that parents and peers take an active role as well.

Author and University of Richmond journalism professor Tom Kapsidelis covered the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In his book, After Virginia Tech: Guns, Safety, and Healing in the Era of Mass Shootings, he addressed how traumatic events impact those involved beyond victims experiencing physical wounds.

“What happens to people who were uninjured survivors?” Kapsidelis questioned. “People, who know every bit of what happened [during] a particular shooting incident, may not have been injured themselves. They too, carry those burdens forever.”

To address the rising demand for mental health care, this fall, Virginia's community colleges and state universities launched a 24-hour, tele-mental healthcare service for students called Timely Care. The University of Virginia began the pilot for this service on its campus in 2021.

Also, this year the Virginia General Assembly allotted a million dollars over the next two years to fund additional mental health care workers at some of Virginia's colleges and universities.


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