Arizona schools received many threats this semester. How is it affecting the mental health of students?

Several schools have been closed in recent months due to threats of a weapon on campus, threats of a shooting, or a student who brought a weapon onto campus.

PHOENIX — Over the course of the fall semester, several local schools were closed after receiving threats of a weapon on campus, shootings, or even a student bringing a weapon to school.

While there is a criminal side to these situations, it is also taking a toll on a student’s mental health due to the multiple school shootings occurring across the country.

County attorney suggests resources for mental health, safety

In recent months, some students have faced charges for bringing weapons into Arizona schools.

Including, a 9-year-old student in Pinal County, who brought a loaded gun to school in November.

As for what might help in situations where threats reach school campuses, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says education about the signs to look for is important.

“When I’m prosecuting cases where someone has really gone off the rails with behavior, you look back, there were so many warning signs,” said Maricopa County District Attorney Rachel Mitchell, Maricopa County District Attorney.

Mitchell says security can be improved as well, and more mental health resources are needed as well.

“Maybe what that informs us that we need to do is provide better education on what we should be looking for so that we can intervene at an earlier point before this kind of thing happens. But again, if they’re hell-bent on, you know, make sure they’re going to find a way,” Mitchell said.

When it comes to cases of students who have brought a gun to school, associate licensed marriage and family therapist Victoria Secrist points out that there may be something deeper going on in students’ lives.

“It could be that maybe they also have a more serious mental health condition, but you don’t really know unless you can take that time to assess like, ‘What was your intent with this? What’s really going on?'” Secrist said.

Threats affect the mental health of students

In early December, Cactus Shadows High School was locked down after a student believed he saw another student with a revolver in a parking lot.

Scottsdale police later said the student was actually carrying a laptop.

“That example, I think, just shows that kids don’t feel safe, right?” Secrist said.

Secrist notes that access to social media and live video of school shootings across the country have also affected the safety of children.

“It’s a real experience that they’re going through that I imagine a lot of different kids are going through right now,” Secrist said.

When these situations occur, Secrist encourages parents to talk to their children without distractions and remain open to how their child is feeling, even if their perspective differs.

“I see more hope in that, right, because we’re not ignoring what’s going on societally or within the school or at home, right, we can open it up and say, ‘Hey, how is this impacting you?'” Secrist said.

If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, there is help and hope. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 988.

  • Teen Lifeline: 602-248-8336. Text to the line is available from noon to 9 pm Monday through Friday or 3 pm to 9 pm on weekends. The hotline is also open for calls every day.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
  • Community References: 211Arizona.org
  • State Resources: https://www.azspc.org/resources.html
  • Crisis Teams: 480-784-1500
  • Maricopa County Crisis Hotline: 602-222-9444
  • Free Youth Mental Health Zoom Community Meetings can also be found at https://preparedparentingaz.org/.

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