School threats around southwest Virginia raise concerns about mental health of young people

New River Valley News

RADFORD, Va. (WFXR) — A threatening social media post put Radford City Public Schools into a “shelter in place” situation on Tuesday. While police did not find evidence of any immediate danger, this is just one of several recent incidents in southwest Virginia schools, leaving a lot of people worried about the mental health impact on children.

At approximately 7:35 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14, officials say Radford City Public Schools notified the Radford Police Department of a potential social media threat involving the use a firearm.

All of the schools in the district went under a shelter in place while police investigated the threat, which actually originated on social media in another locality.

During the month of December, authorities have investigated potential threats against schools in at least five other districts around southwest and central Virginia, including Danville High School on Dec. 3, Salem High School on Dec. 7, Parry McCluer High School on Dec. 8, Franklin County High School on Dec. 8, and Brookville High School on Dec. 9.

Mike Wade, the community outreach and wellness coordinator for New River Valley Community Services, says it’s a tough time to be a kid right now.

In fact, the U.S. surgeon general recent issued a public health advisory about mental health challenges for young people.

According to Wade, there are plenty of different motivations that drive students to make threats, such as stress at home or school, financial issues, or even the resurgence of bullying.

Wade says there needs to be a safe space for young people who are troubled in order to help prevent these situations from taking place.

“If a young person doesn’t have a healthy way to express themselves or someone safe to go to and speak about what they are feeling going through, they bottle that up inside,” said Wade. “That’s obviously not going to bare well for them with their emotional and mental health. When we see things like this happening, it’s usually that young person acting out for some reason.”

Wade adds that the students who are affected by such incidents may experience high anxiety and should speak with someone close or a professional following these situations.

The superintendent of Radford City Public Schools says debriefing about Tuesday’s events on Monday, Dec. 20. School officials are also looking to create an agenda to improve mental health services in the community and their responses to such situations.

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