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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

After the Uvalde shooting, one Dallas doctor sees an ongoing mental health need

 A vigil for the victims if the Uvalde school shooting outside of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Friday, May 27
Bri Kirkham, Texas Public Radio
Bri Kirkham, Texas Public Radio
A vigil for the victims if the Uvalde school shooting outside of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Friday, May 27

In the days after the Uvalde shooting, state agencies and health care providers went to the community to offer support. One of those people was psychiatrist Sabrina Browne with UT Southwestern Medical Center. She spoke about community healing from traumatic events.

In the weeks after the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, mental health professionals from across the state came to offer community support. One of them was UT Southwestern Medical Center psychiatrist Sabrina Browne.

Browne’s practice focuses on child and adolescent psychology, and so when news broke of the tragedy – during which a shooter killed 19 children and two adults – she was among those looking to help.

“When these tragedies happen, and you hear about them, it can make you feel so powerless,” she said. “You want to help, and you don’t know how, and so this was an opportunity to help, even in the smallest amount.”

She and others were stationed at a resource center the state had set up for the community. It was towards the end of intense media coverage, where many folks had packed up and left.

Parents brought their kids in to talk, but the parents found support, too.

“A lot of them hadn’t had the opportunity to really process, because they were keeping it together for the family, for the children,” she said.

Browne is back in Dallas now. But her experience with the people of Uvalde showed her that, for many, the work was just beginning.

Sabrina Browne stands in UT Southwestern Medical Center's upper level.
Brian Coats
Brian Coats Photography
Sabrina Browne, a psychiatrist with UT Southwestern Medical Center, supported families in Uvalde with a team from the hospital in the weeks after the shooting. "There's really no right or wrong way to grieve or to process, because it really is a grief process," she said.

Signs and symptoms of grief in kids and adults

When a traumatic event happens, like a natural disaster or gun violence, it can affect people personally and on a community level. “There’s no right or wrong way to grieve,” Browne said, but there are some commonalities.

Adults often experience an initial sense of numbness that can then lead to sadness, anxiety and trouble sleeping. For kids, who might not yet have the emotional vocabulary to talk about their feelings, Browne said it can include behavior like temper tantrums or increased clinginess.

“We can [also] see kids withdrawing, and same for adults—not being interested in things that they normally would, isolating themselves more,” she said.

Processing grief and trauma, especially when the event happened at school, can show up in academic performance.

“Kids can have problems focusing,” Browne said. “That can be an issue with just getting through the school day. Irritability can be a problem, too. They might be getting into trouble more than usually, stemming from what they’ve gone through.”

If parents or other adults notice these signs, Browne said a great first step is “just allowing that space to talk about it and process it, because carrying all these emotions and bottling them up makes it that much more difficult.”

A community member writes on a cross placed outside the Uvalde Courthouse as a memorial for the 19 students and two faculty members killed in May's shooting.
Patricia Lim
A community member writes on a cross placed outside the Uvalde Courthouse as a memorial for the 19 students and two faculty members killed in May's shooting.

Mental health support is an ongoing need for the community

While Browne was there for a week with the hospital team, she knows the shooting “is something that’s going to impact that community for the rest of their lives.”

She hopes there’s continued resources for mental health support in schools, where kids spend most of their time, and education so children can learn about their emotions and have tools to manage them as they grow up.

Her experiences in Uvalde have changed her practice: a reminder that there aren’t easy fixes for traumatic events.

“In a situation like this, there aren’t any magic words that I could say,” Browne said. “That’s not really realistic or needed. [It’s] the power of creating that space for someone to really be heard, be supported, and allowing them that space to grieve.”

“Just because the media attention has died down a bit, the need is still there, and it still will be there for years to come,” she said.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.