The participants of this study were students of Jokela High School, the school which experienced the shooting, and a control group of students from Pirkkala High school, which had not experienced a shooting. Jokela High School, at the time, had 474 students enrolled. All 474 of these students were asked to partake in the study. Participation in this study was voluntary and of the 474 students, 231 accepted the invitation to participate in the study, 180 students declined, 34 students could not be reached and 29 students consented to participate but never did. 526 students agreed to participate in the study from the control group school, Pirkkala High School. The participants were a mixture of both male and female students ranging from ages 13 to 19 years of age. Large portions of the families of the students from Pirkkala belong to the upper middle-class compared to Jokela, but there were no major differences in sociocultural background or crime rate between the two communities.
The data in this study was collected by dispensing a questionnaire in a school setting in March of 2008. If a student was absent from school the questionnaire was mailed home along with the consent forms. The questionnaire started out asking basic background questions, such as socioeconomic status, living arrangements, previous psychological support or exposure to shootings. Next, students were asked to take a 36-item General Health Questionnaire to measure psychological and psychosocial symptoms. Students were also asked to complete The Impact of Event Scale to map symptoms into two categories, Intrusion and Avoidance.
Students were then asked to rate their exposure to the shooter as either no exposure (control students), mild, moderate, significant, severe, and extreme. Each of these categories had descriptions to help the student choose the right option that applied to them. Lastly, students were asked questions about the media’s interactions with them. They were asked if the media interacted with them after the shooting, if they cooperated with the media, if the questions had an effect on their feelings after the shooting, and how the reporter approached them. Then they were asked if they followed the news coverage on the event over the next couple days and what type of effect the coverage had on their feelings.
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