Psychologist: School threats could be cries for help

Feb 23, 2018, 3:44 PM | Updated: 9:32 pm


SALT LAKE CITY – Utah schools have seen at least four school threats this week, and there are dozens more across the country.

“Any attention is better than no attention,” said Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, director of child and adolescent services at Wasatch Family Therapy.

That’s typically part of what’s going on when a teenager makes a social media threat against a school, Mellenthin said, even if it means getting arrested.

“Even if it’s absolutely negative and toxic and harmful,” she said. “At least, they’re being seen when they don’t feel like they are being seen in other places.” Mellenthin said that kind of behavior resembles a cry for help.

“A child who may be struggling emotionally or mentally and is needing some attention or some validation, or just somebody to say, ‘Wow this kid needs some help.’ That’s how they’re calling out for help: I’m going to do the same thing,” she said.

Other kids lack the maturity to understand the consequences, Mellenthin said.

“It’s not a funny joke, but, they may be somewhat immature in their brain development that they don’t recognize that,” she said.

Other teenagers obsess over school shootings with fascination – students who may actually be thinking about violence.  These are the children, she said, that need to get the proper kind of counseling before they do harm.

“There are kids that are in the planning stages (of school attacks), and we are letting a lot of kids fall through the gaps.”

Mellenthin recommends a school psychologist or social worker in every school and smaller class sizes.

“If we really want to combat this problem, we need to be working from the ground up,” she said. “Have smaller class sizes where the teacher has the ability to have a relationship with each kid and their parents.”

In a smaller class, she said, teacher could more easily recognize when a student is struggling emotionally and mentally. She also suggested a holistic approach to educating students.

“We should create a physical and mental and emotional health paradigm for our schools,” Mellenthin said. “I think that would combat this more than anything else.”

Mellenthin commends the students who stepped up to turn in classmates making threats against schools. She said taking a stand against the violence can make them feel empowered, rather than helpless.

“They are enacting and empowering themselves to make a difference,” she said. “So, it takes that sense of hopelessness and channels it into a sense of activism.”

That’s a healthy response to a traumatic experience, she said. It enables people who felt traumatized, no matter how far from the shooting, to regain some sense of control after feeling helpless in the wake of the shooting.

“Those kids are very, very brave,” said Mellenthin. “They should be commended for what they did and for calling the police and saying, ‘Hey, this is scary to me. This is what I saw.’ Those kids did the right thing, and they were able to use their voices and not be a passive audience to this anymore.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

A trip to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines quickly became personnel for...

Dan Rascon

Members of Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square pay tribute to fallen US soldiers in the Philippines

Members of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square visited the largest American cemetery outside of the United States, making it a tender and special day for all.

55 minutes ago

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs for the first time in the Philippines in the grand b...

Dan Rascon

Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs for first time in the Philippines

History was made for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square as it performed its very first concert ever in the Philippines.

5 hours ago

A volunteer dentist and a University of Utah dental student perform an examination during the "Give...

Collin Leonard, KSL.com

400 kids get free dental care during ‘Give Kids A Smile’ event

Eighty dentists, 20 hygienists and hundreds of community volunteers from across the Wasatch Front provided underprivileged families with free dental care for their children Saturday. It's become an annual event at the University of Utah's School of Dentistry.

5 hours ago

SWAT officers with the Salt Lake City Police Department stand in a driveway after they and patrol o...

Josh Ellis

Man arrested after allegedly threatening SLC first responders with gun

A 23-year-old man was arrested early Saturday morning after police say he threatened emergency medical workers with a handgun.

6 hours ago

Spanish Fork police at the scene where the teen was hurt....

Andrew Adams

Police: Spanish Fork teen seriously injured after falling out of an SUV

Spanish Fork police said a 16-year-old boy was seriously injured after falling out of a moving SUV on Friday.

20 hours ago

Aftermath of an avalanche off of the Wasatch Mountains. (Courtesy: Rob Holmes)...

Brianna Chavez

Backcountry skier urges caution after triggering avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon

A backcountry skier urges other skiers to be cautious after triggering avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Psychologist: School threats could be cries for help