Mental health: Let's talk about mass shootings

Hannah Davis talks to Dr. Bridget Melson, LMFT, Psy.D, founder of Trinity Life Solutions about how to have difficult conversations about mental health with family members. WFAA.com

From a rare tragedy to a tragic reality we have become inundated with mass shootings.

The most recent school shooting, a 19-year-old former student with a history of menacing social media posts killed 17 students and faculty at a Florida high school.

Parents and teachers are needing to have tough conversations more and more with our young people...but just how do you do that?

Talking to our young ones

Dr. Bridget Melson, LMFT, Psy.D, founder of Trinity Life Solutions says it's important to remember that what you do as an adult will affect your young ones more than what you say. Melson has advice on how to talk to children of all ages.

Under 6 years old: Simple is better. Focus on the positives and the heroes if you've heard of any at that point.

Elementary age children: Limit exposure to the news during this time. If they see it, remind them that this is a rare event, probably something they will never see. Then change the subject to good family memories and events. Try to transition the conversation to praying for the victims and their family.

Tweens: Find out what they know. Reach out to them and have a purposeful conversation. Tell the truth without graphic details.

Teens: Ask them about it and talk to them about solutions. This is a generation who cares about social justice and solutions.

Above all, reassure and remind all age groups how loved they are

Melson says for parents, teachers and administrators, this is a good time to talk about making sure students are safe and that the school has a contingency plan in place should something like this happen in their school. Reassuring students that there is a plan both at school and at home if the need arises helps to dispel fears.

The warning signs 

Pay attention to the warning signs if your child is not coping well or processing the traumatic incident well. According to Melson you should look out for the following:

  • Excessive worry
  • Stomach/headaches
  • Change in relationship with peers
  • Change in school performance

Melson says there are a variety of traits to look out for when thinking about the profile of a shooter:

  • Consumed with rage or envy
  • Socially awkward outcast
  • History of abuse themselves or toward animals
  • Self-centered, lack of empathy or compassion
  • Obsessed with violence: movies/video games
  • Usually triggered by an event or being rejected- they snap
  • Some will actually say, "I'm getting a gun and I will shoot you"
  • Feeling of powerlessness

Things parents can do preventively with and for their children: 

  • Being proud means being present 
  • Trust but verify
  • Know who their friends are
  • Know what they're doing online
  • Trust your parental instincts
  • Know when to get help

© 2018 WFAA-TV


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