How to monitor mental health in children; in light of mass shooting

PARKERSBURG, W. Va. (WTAP) - A local counselor says many red flags were missed with Nicholas Cruz, the 19-year-old who killed 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday.

We sat down with her to hear how parents, teachers and peers can catch those signs, and maybe prevent an act of violence from happening locally.

Dr. Amber Adams works at the Counseling and Wellness Center in Parkersburg.

Last year, Adams went in to Wood County schools to monitor class rooms and look for signs of troubled kids.

She helped educate teachers on how to help them, by changing teacher’s perspectives on how to react when a student is acting out.

She says, “When I would go into the school system, these teachers, they're not properly educated, and that's not their fault, they didn't go to school to identify these behaviors, you know. So I come in and that’s what my goal was last year. I would say, try to think about what's going on at home, and why he's acting this way. What's the function of what he's doing?"

Adams says violent urges often come from a trauma, or when problems at home and school build up from an early age.

She says signs to look out for can vary, but include losing interest in friends and activities, changes in school work patterns or not wanting to go to school.

She also says changes in sleep patterns or eating patterns can be a sign as well as bizarre comments.

“These children start to get beaten down and it starts to cause this withdrawal and not trusting anybody and not trusting their environment.

They think that nobody is there for them to help them pick up those pieces, so they say ‘well I’m going to make a name for myself since no one thinks I can do anything’ and then what do they do? They turn to violence of some kind.”

Adams says as a teacher if you’re ever concerned about a student the first step should be to try contacting the parents.

And if you can’t get a hold of them that may be an indication that there’s trouble at home.

As a peer she recommends telling a teacher when you think something seems troubling.

She says students can also ask around to their friends when they see a social media post or something they don’t think is right, to see if their friends agree that there is a problem.

As parents Adams says you can reach out to mental health experts or seek counseling from the schools.

And if you are someone feeling neglected or alone, Adams says there are a number of national crisis hotlines that have people available 24-hours a day to be there for you and make sure you are feeling safe.

You can text “CONNECT” to 741-741. Or call 1-800-273-8255.

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