Counselors analyze impact school threats have on mental health

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 11:53 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - It’s never easy when a potential threat puts a school on lockdown. These traumatic events can impact everyone involved, students, teachers, parents in many ways.

“School, this place, it’s supposed to be safe. I’m supposed to be protected, I’m supposed to be cared for, so that I can learn,” said Sarah Harig, a licensed professional counselor and the clinical director of Family Service of Roanoke Valley.

More than a dozen school threats have impacted classrooms across our hometowns during the 2022-2023 school year, many coming in September 2022, with the latest Wednesday that put E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg on lockdown for more than six hours.

No matter if it’s an actual act of violence or a threat, they have lasting mental health impacts on students and families.

“There is this life-threatening aspect to it of, oh my gosh, am I going to be hurt, are my friends going to be hurt, are these people that I care about going to be hurt,” said Harig.

In the presence of traumatic events, one of the most important things to do is talk about it.

“Recovery requires social support, right? We can’t do it ourselves. So recovery requires grieving, talking to others, making connections with others,” said Scott Geller, an alumnus distinguished professor at Virginia Tech.

“I think it’s also really important, again, to go in with honest information, you know, obviously, in an age-appropriate level. Opening up that space for your child to ask questions, being able to talk about, you know, there are a lot of things that are out of our control, but here are all the things that people who care about you are doing to keep you safe,” said Harig.

Other suggested tips for having these conversations include reviewing safety procedures with children and keeping explanations developmentally appropriate.

Experts add it’s important to check in on friends and families in the days and weeks following these situations.