‘Cry for help’: With rise in violence at local schools, experts emphasize mental health resources

PORTSMOUTH, Virginia (MAGY) – Teachers’ fears come true this school year as students return to learning at school with anxiety, depression, an increase in gun crime and violent outbursts.

Gun crimes in Portsmouth public schools have increased 125% this year, from eight in the 2019-20 school year, to 18 since September.

Norfolk Public Schools reported 669 incidents of violence/fighting in the 2019-20 school year and already saw 479 this year (2021-2022).

“When it translates to violent behavior, it’s usually a cry for help,” said Jeremy Dyce, a mental health coach and certified crisis intervention coach at The King’s Daughters Children’s Hospital in Norfolk.

Dice discovered that many students feel robbed of major milestones, such as graduation, proms, and homecoming. What they want, he told WAVY, is to regain some strength over the situation.

“What gives us strength? Weapons, or having an advantage, or being able to show how strong we are,” said Dyce. “What they really want is a sense of belonging, they want to feel connected, they want to feel important, they want to feel that they are heard. “

10 On Your Side reached all local public school areas. Most did not report a number of violent incidents, but they did talk about the growing number of employees they hired to help.

Brianna Lyons, a student resource and engagement counselor at Chesapeake Public Schools, told WAVY, “Social workers in our school have nearly doubled, we’ve got a number of new jobs for child psychologists, and we’ve hired some new counselors for schools.”

Chesapeake schools report that they are catching more children who use alcohol and vaping.

“When I work with students and talk to them, I often find that they are either self-medicating or they are like a cry for help,” Lyons said.

School counselors across Hampton Roads see children in shock.

“It’s just too much weight right now they’re just trying to lift that weight and lift it, because they know that’s what to expect,” said Patricia Davis, a Newport News Middle School counselor.

Davis uses the circuit exercise to help those who struggle with anger and anxiety.

“In the circle you put all the things you can control, and then there’s the outer circle you put all the things you can’t control,” Davis said.

The lesson is to focus on the things within that circle, the things you can change, like your behavior.

Davis encourages deep breathing, music, or just walking away.

Parents can help, experts say, by getting involved.

Look for changes in your child’s behavior such as sleeping and eating patterns, and create a safe space for them to talk.

Das’ advice: “Listen with empathy, listen patiently, listen with understanding—not trying to respond but trying to understand.”

As students press to beat the pandemic, Dace reminds us that no one has been there before, so we can’t expect to get all the answers, but we can find them working together.

“One of the biggest things we can do is increase patience, love, and grace,” Das said.

Chesapeake schools currently hold focus groups with teachers to listen and address concerns they see in class.

CHKD will hold its 25th Annual School Healthcare Conference on Saturday, February 5, 2022.

It is a forum for healthcare agencies, school nurses and school staff to meet virtual and share information about current health issues in schools. click here For more information or to register.

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