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‘It shook me’: Students share how recent violence is affecting their mental health, private therapists offer support

A Charlotte therapist says she’s noticed students with PTSD, anxiety, and nightmares
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 5:53 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Guns on campus, fights in the hallways, and social media threats are happening in your children’s schools.

Students tell WBTV it’s not only affecting their mental health but their ability to learn.

“With the recent event it kind of shook me for real,” said West Charlotte High School student Malachi Thompson as he reflected on the shooting that happened at his school this week.

On Monday, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police responded to West Charlotte High School.

Police say two students were fighting over a bookbag when one student pulled out a gun and started shooting. Nobody was injured and the shooting did not happen in any school buildings.

One student was arrested and charged.

Related: Student charged for firing shot after fight over bookbag at West Charlotte HS

Thompson is a West Charlotte sophomore and member of the Student Government Association and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council - Generation Nation.

He’s also originally from West Charlotte and a candidate for the student advisor position on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.

“I’m usually not scared of stuff, but it shook me to the point where I had to go to speak out,” Thompson said. “That’s why I had to go to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education Meeting, so I could actually use my voice for the bettering of our schools. Greatness comes out of West Charlotte, it’s not only violence at West Charlotte.”

Thompson spoke at Tuesday’s BOE meeting expressing his and other students’ concerns and offered suggestions to the Board.

His friends aren’t the only ones feeling the strain from recent social media threats, fights, and weapons on campus.

Licensed mental health therapist Charryse Johnson works with people of all ages including students.

She was also very involved with providing mental health support for students who witnessed the 2018 deadly school shooting at Butler High School.

Johnson says she’s gotten a surge of phone calls from parents, community groups, and churches who are concerned about different students’ mental health and emotional well-being.

“The impact of a school shooting or even guns being found can impact a student emotionally, psychologically, and physically,” Johnson said. “This can be anything from, I’m hearing: anxiety, headaches, digestive issues, changes in appetite, or sleep patterns.”

Johnson says the trauma is not only affecting students but school staff too.

“You literally have them going into almost like the front line of a war zone. Not only are they trying to protect themselves from this intangible, unseen Omicron [Variant] but they’re scared at any moment something could fire off,” she said.

Johnson says it’s frustrating because she says the district should’ve implemented more safety measures and private therapists after the shooting at Butler High School.

“I’ve seen nothing change, I’ve seen no new initiatives to talk to families and help them understand how to prepare for their students. I’ve not seen connecting with private clinicians to get them to come into schools and adopt a school and serve more. I’ve seen nothing.,” she said.

Thompson says there needs to be additional therapists and counselors in schools - that way students get direct support they can access and afford.

“I think it’s very essential for every high school to have at least one private counselor on campus who has a passion for it because I don’t see a lot of passion now in schools,” Thompson said.

For more information on mental health and counseling resources in CMS, click here.

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