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February 14 2022 12:00 am

What parents and schools can do help children struggling with their mental health


CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The recent mass shooting in Oakland County, Michigan has left the nation devastated, especially parents and schools. We spoke with experts on prevention efforts parents and schools can take to help children struggling with their mental health.

“I worry 24/7. I’m a worried person. My kids mean the world to me. They mean everything to me,” said Sierra Lowery, a parent.

For parents like Lowery, it’s a nightmare that repeats on the news over and over again. This time it happened in a Detroit suburb, where a 15-year-old allegedly shot and killed four classmates and injured many more. Now, the suspect’s parents are charged after prosecutors say they ignored warning signs.

“We always tell our kids, never keep a secret. Always come to us about anything. If it’s not me, then go to Dad. It depends on certain issues that they want to talk about, but that’s what we always tell them,” said Lowery.

But, what happens if the warning signs aren’t clear? Dr. Kiran Devaraj, a psychiatrist with Psi Med Inc. who works with children told us it’s crucial to identify if their child is struggling and communicate with them on ways they can help.

“Whether it’s isolation, crying, mood issues that are very clear, it’s easy to point that out and it’s easy to treat and get help, but it’s often the subtle things that are missed,” said Devaraj.

If your child is struggling or a danger to themselves or others, some overlooked behaviors to look out for include isolation, extreme social media use, anger, irritability, and withdrawal from family and friends.

“Obviously, in any kind of mental health issues, depression and anxiety are the big things that we see, and I think it’s important to understand that they don’t necessarily have to be triggered. It’s an illness that can develop in anybody,” said Deveraj.

Deveraj advises parents to communicate with their children and seek immediate help such as counseling, therapy, or medical attention if they’re struggling.

“If it’s something that occurs at school, we want to isolate that student away from other students, and we would normally get our counselors and psychologists involved to find out the issue the student is having,” said Keith Vititoe, Executive Director of Safety and Security at Kanawha County Schools.

Vititoe says if a child’s behavior poses a potential threat it’s also encouraged to communicate with school officials and law enforcement.

“If it’s something that rises to the level of violence, then we have school discipline or if it’s a violation of law, law enforcement would get involved and would handle it appropriately. Everything we do here, we take every threat seriously. Every threat is investigated no matter what time it is received,” said Vititoe.

If your child is struggling or you know of any potential threats to any school, law officials ask that you get your child help and contact the police.

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