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A look at mental health after arrest of two students planning a school shooting in Lehigh Acres

Harns Marsh Middle School
Posted at 5:20 PM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 10:23:00-04

LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. — We are continuing to follow news that has many parents and students on edge in Southwest Florida.

On Monday, two teens charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting at Harns Marsh Middle School are being charged as juveniles at this time.

The Lee County Clerk tells Fox 4 the two teens' information will remain confidential unless they are charged as adults in the criminal felony cases.

Lee County Sheriff, Carmine Marceno said this could have been the next Parkland shooting, but officers were able to catch them during the planning stages.

So how do families avoid this from happening in the first place?

Dr. Alise Bartley, the Director of the Community Counseling Clinic at Florida Gulf Coast University says mental health took a huge hit during the pandemic.

“People are feeling really powerless and they try to find other ways to get their power back and unfortunately sometimes people try to get their power back in very unhealthy ways,” said Bartley.

When asked if this was the case for the two teenagers being accused and now charged with plotting a mass shooting at Harns Marsh Middle School, Bartley said she would not comment specifically on the two teenagers.

She did offer up signs families can look out for, saying the Community Counseling Clinic at Florida Gulf Coast University is seeing a huge rise in children and teens who are seeking mental help.

“It’s important for us as parents, to check in with our kids and ask them how was school today? What happened? And don’t settle for the, “ it was fine” or “same old same old” be more specific and say, “ tell me one thing you enjoyed about today,” said Bartley.

Dr. Bartley says families can also look for aggressive behaviors in teens who are gravitating towards violent types of video games.

She says children and young teens are going to struggle with things they cannot understand and as parents, it’s important to always extend a helping hand, no matter how many times it's rejected.

Resources for counseling and mental help provided by Community Counseling Clinic at Florida Gulf Coast University can be found by clicking here.