La Salle High School students feel safe, but adverse reaction may come later, counselor says

Witnesses to shooting are 'traumatized'

GREEN TWP, Ohio - One of the counselors who spoke with La Salle High School students Tuesday said they feel safe after Monday's shooting but should be monitored in case they have adverse reactions down the road.

Cathy Strunk, Director of the "Surviving the Teens" program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, said many students shared a common theme following Monday's attempted suicide in a third-floor classroom.

"They're very proud of their school and they feel safe here," she said.

But school leaders are carefully monitoring all students -- especially the 22 who witnessed the shooting. 

"You can imagine they are traumatized," Strunk said. "I'm sure there was a lot of fear involved and probably worried whether their own lives were at stake as well."

The student who shot himself in first bell remained in critical condition Tuesday, officials said. Classes resumed at the all-boys Catholic school Tuesday, beginning with a prayer service.

The school has taken a very proactive stance with its 800 students, Strunk said.

"They're allowing the boys to talk. They're making people available to them. They're very supported," she said.   "They're talking amongst themselves and I'm just very impressed about how everything is being handled by the school.

Teachers and staff are on the lookout for depression, which Strunk says is a major risk for suicide.

"Having low self esteem could be a sign. Sleep changes. It could be appetite problems. It could be having problems at school. Fatigue. Attention problems," she said.

"Ninety percent of the time the person has a diagnosable and treatable mental disorder and it's going largely unrecognized and untreated. In fact, only 30 percent of depressed teens are getting help for their depression," Strunk said.

She advises students to talk with trusted adults.

"Let someone know what's troubling you. Ask for and accept support. Share feelings – and I go over in great detail - especially painful feelings," Strunk said.

She advises parents to listen.

"I ask kids to tell parents what is helping them and what is not helping them. Sometimes parents aren't as helpful," Strunk said.

"In this school they can identify a lot of adults here that are able to help them besides the adults at home."

Strunk acknowledged that long-term monitoring is needed because problems may not surface right away.

"Even with post-traumatic stress you may not see results of this until months down the road," Strunk said. "So, right away, everyone's defenses are mobilized and a lot of the resiliency we see going on, but it could be down the road you want to be concerned about it."

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