Mental health experts speak out after school shooting threat

Cheney Middle School in West Fargo, ND
Cheney Middle School in West Fargo, ND(KVLY)
Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 6:32 PM CST
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WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Mental health experts are speaking out in the wake of a third school shooting threat in F-M area schools. In today’s case, the direct threat to Cheney Middle School. The week before, a loaded gun was brought to a Fargo elementary school.

In Sept. 2021 there were 151 school shooting threats in the United States, the three September prior saw 29 on average.

“Suddenly something that’s probably never occurred to us before… am I going to die today?” stated Praire St. John’s social worker Kerrie Berg.

She says a school shooting threat like what happened at Cheney Middle School causes stress, anxiety, and fear for everyone.

“We all want to believe that not my child… but what if?” Berg questioned.

She said now is the time to have those difficult conversations with your children and check in on them.

“They really do want you to check on them,” said Praire St. John’s Clinical Director Amanda Richter, “It’s important they feel loved, appreciated, trusted, safe.”

Richter added if kids don’t get the care they need, some act out, taking lessons from events in the news. Last week four students were shot and killed at a school in Oxford, Michigan.

“In the events of oxford there is a copycat effect where something happens and that moves on to another city, another town, another state,” said Richter, “We have to be on the lookout for that too.”

West Fargo school officials say they have counselors, social workers, and programs available to both students and staff who are struggling.

Berg and Richter say the pandemic has made normal stresses worse, but the problem behind the threats has always been there: a lack of mental health care for students on the edge.

Richter says 80% of school shooters were in an active mental health crisis, something she says parents can and should look for.

“Identify signs of crisis...anything that looks different,” said Richter, “Any behavior that would be out of the ordinary. Check-in, say hey how are you doing? What’s going on? Is there anything you want to talk about?”

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