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Addressing mental health amidst school threats

What you can do
Posted at 6:26 PM, Oct 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-07 19:26:04-04

Another day of threats at schools across Acadiana on Friday.

In Lafayette, a Paul Breaux Middle School student is now facing terrorizing charges. Police said the student told the school resource officer two students were seen on campus with guns Friday morning — but officers said the information was false and created another crisis. The school was given the all-clear after being searched by Lafayette Police Department and the Sheriff's Office.

In Iberia Parish, the all-clear was given at Anderson Middle School after the campus was evacuated for a bomb threat the same day. That threat was posted to social media.

With that, multiple parents across Acadiana told KATC the effects of these multiple threats go beyond the dismissal bell, changing the tone of dinnertime conversations.

"I'm scared, I'm just scared," 8-year-old Kaisyn Joseph told KATC when asked how he feels about going to school amidst the threats.

Others told KATC that times are changing — parents specifically said they are losing sight of where to turn.

"My grandson has anxiety over this, it's affecting them," said Marjorie Munro, a grandmother to two Lafayette High students and an aunt to one. "They don't really know how to deal with that either, they don't really know what's happening to them."

In New Iberia, Donald Trahan said he once had doubts about where to send his kids to school.

"I am happy that my children are homeschooled at this point," he said.

Then there's David Wells. A father to a middle school and high school student in New Iberia, he told KATC parents can only do the best they can to understand their children during these unprecedented times.

"You really have to sit down and pay attention to what your child is telling you," Wells said. "And try to read their emotions on it before you can actually give them an answer to what's going on.

Licensed professional counselor Michelle Hernandez told us that's exactly right. However, when it comes to these threats, she said at the end of the day, it's got to do with brain development.

"We can't think long-term about consequences at these young ages," Hernandez, who also has a son at Lafayette High, said. "Which is why when we're that age, we don't make good decisions and we do foolish things because we think we're invincible. People talk about teenagers being invincible thinking that nothing can happen to them when it can."

So what is a parent — or a student, for that matter — supposed to do?

Hernandez told KATC that while it may seem cliche, prioritizing self-care and mindfulness, journaling, and reaching out to a friend are good methods for anyone. For children specifically, contacting a guidance counselor or grown-up you trust helps. She noted that it's easy to feel anxious or depressed during times like these — but parents should also strive for open relationships with their children, so they can better recognize symptoms of these disorders.

"If you notice they're more irritable or sheltered, which many teenagers act that way already because of the changes they're going through, but if you notice that it's getting worse, that's something to watch," Hernandez said. "Also, if they stop participating in activities they previously used to enjoy, that's a red flag."

Hernandez also mentioned that while it may not always be accessible to all families, making an appointment for therapy with a licensed professional can help.

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