AUSTIN, Texas — In the weeks since a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Gov. Greg Abbott has promised that everyone in the community will have access to the mental health care they need. On Wednesday, the governor directed state’s Health and Human Services Commission to work with the Texas Education Agency to use all available resources to help those affected. 

Research has found that gun violence, even for those who aren’t physically injured, can cause lifelong trauma.

 “Experiences of gun violence are particularly hard to navigate, because they require us to both manage trauma and grief simultaneously,” said Jocelyn Smith Lee, an assistant professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. “And that’s a steep learning curve for anyone, but particularly for children.” 

Smith Lee says that it can be hard when that trauma occurs at school, a place that is usually viewed as a safe space for children.

“These events can really create shattered assumptions about how the world is supposed to work,” she said. “There is a fractured reality of the life they knew before the morning of the shooting, and now a life they’ll have to navigate after.” 

Smith Lee says that parents need to watch for signs of intense changes in behavior or mood. She also adds that its paramount parents are getting mental health support as well. 

“It’s important that we are connecting families to culturally competent, linguistically competent clinicians who can support them on this long-term journey of healing,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens. On average, guns wound or kill 22 children each day in the U.S.