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After the buffalo shooting, the school counselor shouts for help

Every school seems to have a moment to embody the crisis facing young Americans and the pressure it puts on educators.

For a junior high school counselor living in the countryside of California, 200 students appeared after a suicide prevention seminar this year saying they needed help. Many were in sixth grade.

Another school counselor Massachusetts He talks about a high school student who spent two weeks in the hospital’s emergency room before getting an inpatient bed in a psychiatric ward.

For many schools, the shooting last weekend was a rampage BuffaloIt prompted staff discussions about how they react differently, made by an 18-year-old boy who was flagged for making threatening comments in high school last year.

Robert Byrdwell, school counseling director at Tantaska Regional High School in Fiskdale, Massachusetts, talked about shootings in the northern part of the state. new york This week he shaped how he handled the threat assessment. He told the staff, “Do what we do because we don’t want to be in the news in a year or five, saying the school didn’t do what it needed to prevent this.”

The surge in student mental health needs, combined with staff shortages and widespread episodes of fraud and violence, puts an extraordinary burden on school counselors and psychologists. Buffalo shootings highlight their concerns about their ability to assist students and properly select students who may indicate potential violence.

According to law enforcement agencies, buffalo-accused shooter Peyton Gendron said he wanted to commit suicide in the spring of 2021 when a high school teacher in Binghamton, New York asked him about his plans for graduation. As a result of the comments, state police were called in to conduct a mental health assessment at the hospital, claiming he was joking and being allowed to attend the graduation ceremony.

“I think the school is still safe, and I believe it,” said Birdwell, managing director of the Massachusetts School Counselors Association. “But I also feel that more and more children are struggling, and some of the struggling children may do bad things.”

In the years prior to the pandemic, children’s depression and anxiety increased, and school closures and broader social blockades during the pandemic exacerbated the problem, experts said. According to experts, the number of shootings at school is skyrocketing when returning to face-to-face lessons. Teachers say that contempt and rebellion are increasing. The temper is shorter and flares faster.

“The tagline I use is that kids aren’t okay,” said Erich Merkle, a psychologist at Akron Public School in Ohio, addressing students’ increased depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. I said there is. Material use, aggression, violence and other behavioral problems. “It can be said that the therapist is having a hard time.”

Many parents wanted the problem of distance learning to go away as the classroom reopened. However, it soon became apparent that long-term isolation and immersion in screens and social media had a lasting impact. The school is at the stage where the spillover effect of the pandemic is being demonstrated.

Jennifer Collecty, School Counseling Director at Harrison High School in New Jersey, said school staff are “100% taxable.” “Everyone. Managers, staff. Similarly, no one runs away. No one is surprised every day and graduates from school.”

In particular, suicide risk assessments are skyrocketing. A 15-year counselor says he has done as much in the last three years as he did 12 years ago.

She and Markle both talked about how they reacted using mass shootings like in Buffalo and shootings that shot four classmates in 15-year-old Michigan. Said.

At Livingston Middle School in the countryside of Central California, counselors have been teaching suicide prevention in the classroom for years. In the pre-pandemic class, about 30 students said they wanted to meet a counselor. Almaropez, the district counselor coordinator and one of the two middle school counselors, said.

“This year I had 200 children, which is a quarter of our student population,” she said. “It’s a huge number. I can’t see 200 kids every week. It’s impossible.”

Many of the children seeking help were sixth graders with friendship-related problems, she said.

School staff quickly made changes, holding as many one-on-one sessions as possible, increasing group lessons on mental health, and placing suicide prevention hotline number leaflets in all classrooms.

They brought back as many activities, clubs and gatherings as possible to help the children connect. Lopez said the plea from peers across the country echoed and constantly reminded the district that more support was needed.

Most states struggle to support mental health in schools, according to a recent report from the Hopeful Futures Campaign, a federation of mental health organizations across the country. In some states, including West Virginia, Missouri, Texas, and Georgia, more than 4,000 students have only one school psychologist, the report said.

Lopez oversees Case Road for about 400 students at her school in Livingston, California. this is, American School Counselor Association with one counselor for every 250 students.

“It’s a big burden right now,” she said. Many students in her school are children of agricultural workers in the community who have been hit hard by COVID-19 infection and death. She is worried that she may have missed something important.

“I think a lot can be lost,” she said. “If we do not intervene in time, the problems associated with sadness will be greatly complicated and create additional challenges.”

Lopez and other counselors convened earlier last week to discuss how to help students handle the horrors associated with Buffalo shooting and whether it’s safe to go to the supermarket.

In some schools, federal bailouts help address the shortage of mental health professionals, but struggle to find qualified hires or use assistance to train existing staff. I’m doing it.

David Riedman, a criminal scholar and co-founder of the K-12 School Shooting Database, which maintains a national count for gun shots at schools, is challenged by increased gun violence on school grounds. It says it’s getting complicated.

According to the aggregate, there were 249 shootings in schools from kindergarten to high school in 2021, more than doubled in any year since 2018 when Reedman launched the database. So far this year, there have been 122 shootings.

There is also a notable difference from last year: many of the incidents were not planned attacks, but typical controversies that ended in a shootout.

Out-of-school mental health professionals are also nervous, Birdwell said, referring to students with a history of mental illness who have been waiting for psychiatric admission at the ER for two weeks this year.

It highlights the country’s broken health system, and shows that the state does not have sufficient housing mental health abilities, especially for adolescents, he said.

Richard Tench, a counselor at St Albans High School in West Virginia, said it was impossible to introduce students in need of external counseling to his local therapist.

“All of our referrals are full. We are on the waiting list,” he said. “Where do you go when the referrals are full?”

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The Associated Press education team is supported by the Carnegie Foundation in New York.The AP We are solely responsible for all content.

After the buffalo shooting, the school counselor shouts for help

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