ODESSA, Texas — In light of recent school threats and following the violence our community experienced in August, we can't help but wonder how can a community begin to move forward and process trauma in a healthy way?
It may be too soon to tell in our communities, but a new report published by Politico highlights the toll a mass shooting can have on a school district.
The report says mental health problems went up after the deadly mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Santa Fe High School. So much so, that school districts in those communities applied and were awarded federal grant money to help schools recover from a violent or traumatic event.
According to the report, following the mass shooting at Parkland High School, physical attacks grew from 34 in 2017 to 128 in 2018.Reports of threats and intimidation grew to 368.
It is too soon to know the full impact of the events from the past month in ECISD, but it’s clear that our students have been through a lot.
So how can you help them process the events of the past week in a healthy way? Mental health professionals says the sooner you start talking about what happened, the better.
Centers for Children and Families say the number one rule following events like today is to talk about it, even if it appears your teen is unphased.
The 2019-2020 school year has been anything but normal. The semester began mourning the loss of an Odessa High student killed in the August 31st shooting rampage that killed 7 people and injured more than two dozen others.
Since that time, numerous threats made on Snapchat and just this week, a student arrested for brining a gun on campus at Permian High School. Then Thursday – a scare that sent students running away from campus.
"Our community is not in a normal place,” Mark McQueen, the clinical director at Centers. “We are about six weeks removed from the mass event that took place in Odessa and then we've had several other but smaller but significant events that took place.”
So how do you start a conversation about it? McQueen says it's important to remember children don't always understand what they're feeling.
"Most people are not aware of how their body might react when a significant event happens and it tends to catch them off guard and they are surprised by the disturbances in sleep or the irritability of the tendency to want to isolate, or they may be feeling depressed when they've never been depressed before," he said.
For parents, McQueen says it's important to be honest and admit that sometimes we just don't have all of the answers.
"Most of us ultimately want these events to make sense,” he said. “I think it’s sort of human instinct and if we think we can understand it and make sense of it that somehow it will feel better but I don't know that is going to happen in most of the situations."
While we may never understand ‘why,’ it's important to know that healing starts by talking.
Ector County ISD has taken proactive steps to bring in extra resources for students who need to talk to a counselor. The district has 18 student assistance services professionals in place, along with staff being trained for trauma situations and a partnership with Texas Tech University to offer tele-psychiatry services to students.