Days after the Oxford High School shooting, which resulted in the death of four students and injuries to others, the Oakland County community — and beyond — is experiencing grief, anxiety, and other feelings surrounding the tragedy. In moments like this, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, it’s crucial for parents and caregivers to pay special attention to their child’s mental health.
“A school shooting is something we hope would never happen anywhere, but tragically occurred in our state this week,” says Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director, in a press release. “While no parent or child should have to experience this, it is important to take care of the mental health needs of survivors and those impacted by this tragic event…”
The MDHHS is encouraging adults to help their children process their emotions. According to the department, when speaking with kids about violence, it’s important to reassure them that they’re safe and to validate their feelings. Being mindful of keeping conversations age-appropriate, adults should be patient and make the time to talk with their children as well as do other activities — younger kids, for example, may express their feelings better through something like drawing.
When it comes to daily life around the house, the department says that maintaining a regular routine can help with healing. Limiting media consumption of the event is also beneficial, as is reviewing home and school safety procedures. Finally, parents and caregivers should pay attention to their child’s emotional state and keep in mind that some kids may need the support of mental health professionals.
“…As we move forward step by step as a community, the questions and worries can be overwhelming,” says Dr. Debra Pinals, MDHHS medical director for behavioral health and forensic programs, in a press release. “With anxiety and depression rates already heightened in the context of the pandemic, a tragedy like what happened at Oxford High School will need to be processed, and people will need to communicate about their concerns, even if they may be reluctant to do so. There is no shame in accessing support for emotional stress and trauma, and we encourage those who need that support to reach out to a healthcare provider or call 2-1-1 for local resources that can meet your needs.”
Along with the tips above, MDHHS offers a 24/7 Michigan Crisis and Access Line, which residents can chat with online or call or text at 844-446-4335 to receive free behavioral health crisis triage, referrals to local services, and more. Additionally, if you or someone you know is concerned about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or visit the organization’s website for free, confidential support.
The department is also suggesting that parents and caretakers visit the John Hopkins Medicine website for information on talking to children about safety, the National Association of School Psychologists website for tips on talking to kids about violence, and the American Psychological Association website for tips to help children manage distress after a shooting.