If your kids participated in the nationwide school walkout March 14 to protest gun violence they weren’t just taking a stand.  They might also be helping their mental health and easing anxiety they feel about a mass shooting happening at their school.

A month after 17 students were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland Florida, high school students and teachers across the country, including thousands in Connecticut, walked out of class in the first coordinated, student-led protest calling for tougher gun laws to protect students from tragedies like Parkland and Sandy Hook.  The mass protest was held at 10 a.m. local time and lasted 17 minutes, one minute for each of the victims.

“Participating in an event like the nationwide walkout makes people feel like they have regained some control and that you’re not just passively letting things happen,” says Carrie Pichie, PhD., Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network East Region Director of Ambulatory Care — which includes Natchaug Hospital and the psychiatric services departments at Backus and Windham hospitals.  “And there’s that realistic feeling that they’re doing something that will increase safety in their school.”

Another way to ease anxiety for students is to remind them that, with 55 million children enrolled in schools in the U.S., shootings are rare and that they are unlikely to experience one, Dr. Pichie says.  She says it’s also a good idea to turn off the news coverage for these types of events.

“People can become very anxious if they continue to watch or read about them.  If someone is concerned about these types of events, doing something positive like taking part in peaceful protest or writing a letter to an elected official can help lesson anxiety,” Dr. Pichie says.

On March 24, thousands of people are expected to participate in “March for Our Lives” rallies across the country to call for gun control in the wake of the Parkland shooting.  Another national walkout is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine.

To connect with services for helping to manage anxiety visit www.instituteofliving.org/adc.