ANN ARBOR – Another school shooting has rocked the state of Michigan just over one year after the deadly shooting at Oxford High School.
On Monday night, a gunman entered two academic buildings on Michigan State University’s campus and shot several students, killing three and critically wounding five.
The suspect, a 43-year-old male with no affiliation to the university, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound off campus hours after the initial attacks, authorities said.
Classes and all campus activities have been canceled at MSU for 48 hours, and all K-12 schools in the East Lansing Public Schools District are closed on Tuesday.
As students and families across the state wake up following an incident, it can be difficult to avoid exposure to the topic on social media, television and radio.
Limit screen time
What’s the best way to help young children and teenagers process such traumatic news?
Joanna Quigley, a child psychiatrist at Michigan Medicine said it can take a long time to cope with the grim reality of school shootings.
“The biggest things that adults and our communities can do right now are to provide consistency and structure, to keep open lines of communication, and to find time each day to check in with one another,” Quigley said in a statement in the immediate aftermath of the Oxford High School shooting. “Make it clear you’re available to answer questions about what happened, but make sure the child isn’t overexposed to the media coverage of the event, or to social media posts about it.”
She said that being exposed to news and coverage of the event on social media can cause a child to be retraumatized, so avoiding digital devices is recommended.
Quigley recommended that teenagers refer to “When Terrible Things Happen” by the National Child Trauma Network as a tool to help them reduce the negative effects of major traumatic events.
Other resources she recommended include the Resources for Families site from SAMHSA, a federal agency and the disaster, violence and trauma resources from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Keeping communication lines open
Quigley acknowledged that parents sometimes avoid discussing a traumatic event altogether as a way to cope. This, she said, can make a child feel like they can’t talk about it when they’re ready.
“Grownups should name the emotions they’re feeling about this situation, especially with teens,” she said in a statement. “Sometimes older children and teens aren’t ready to name the emotions they’re feeling or discuss them proactively, but if they hear that others are feeling them, they may.
“Even if say they don’t have questions or don’t want to talk right now, let them know you have an ‘open door policy’ if they do want to talk, which could be a week or two from now, or may be prompted by more information coming out about the incident. It’s important for them to know that the adults in their lives are available to them on an ongoing basis.”
She added that consistency in routines is extremely important, including spending quality time together as a family, keeping regular schedules and healthy sleeping and eating habits. School is also an important source of stability for children, with many resources available to students, she said.
Reporting a problem
If you suspect a teen’s personality or behavior has changed and become concerned, speaking up is the best solution, said Quigley, who added that several mental health conditions like schizophrenia and depression tend to peak during the teenage and young adult years. Such concerns should be brought to a child’s pediatrician.
Anyone concerned about school safety in Michigan can contact the OK2SAY Tip Line at 1-855-565-2729, text to 652729 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255 or via live web chat should someone voice concerns about hurting themselves. Crisis lines for each county in the state are listed here.