ST. LOUIS — The Central VPA High School shooter left a manifesto, according to police, describing feeling alone, unaccepted, and isolated from his community. Mental health experts say that can now serve as a call to action for school officials and even parents.
"It's no longer on TV or the news, it's in our backyard,” said licensed professional counselor Etoya White.
The former school counselor is already hard at work, working with Annie Malone to counsel those impacted by Monday's school shooting. He says it starts with listening to how students are feeling.
"They might be scared. They might be afraid. They might be whatever that emotion is and then be able to actually label that. And then follow that up with ‘behavior is the language of emotion’ so what behavior set then follows them encountering those emotions such that we can start to develop coping strategies and things of that nature,” he said.
Tuesday, police said the shooter left a manifesto saying he had no friends or family, no social life and felt isolated his entire life.
"There are kids who are listening to this right now saying ‘I feel buddy. I feel that way about my situation.' Now, can we provide alternatives? Can we give them choices to choose from? People to speak to, people to reach out to. Can we pay more attention to those subliminals? The things that are happening on social media? The videos that they watch? The comments that they leave? How they behave at home? Attention to detail. All these different things so that those kids who don't have a voice can develop some confidence,” White said.
He said it serves as an opportunity for all parents.
"You can have conversations on a regular basis that say, 'Hey, how was school today?' and not just let them say, 'It was good.' What was good about it? You’re present and you understand who they're hanging out with. You understand what they're doing in school, what their grades are. It can't be an emergency when it becomes an emergency. It has to be a part of your regular habit,” he explained.
He also points to an opportunity for school leaders everywhere.
"What additional counselors, social workers, school resource officers, what additional resources do we need? Do we need to pony up or re-purpose money so that we have fewer kids in this situation where they don't feel a part of the community that they're growing up in?” White added.
When it comes to those impacted by Monday’s shooting, Annie Malone is offering free counseling for individuals and families along with free counseling for parents. To sign up, contact firstname.lastname@example.org