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Kids in crisis: Cases involving young suspects intensify in SWFL

The intensity of child crime cases in Southwest Florida is causing some concerns.

In the last month, two children in elementary schools brought dangerous weapons with them to school, intending to harm others and themselves.

“It’s scary to me,” said a parent named Debbi.

She’s among parents who have been thinking of their kids being in danger because of weapons brought to school by other students.

“Even in elementary-age it happens; it needs to be addressed before it turns into something that could have been more catastrophic,” she said.

Just this week, investigators with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office said an 11-year-old girl at Estates Elementary School brought a knife on a school bus. Reports state that video from onboard the bus shows the child pointing the 5.5″ knife at other kids’ heads and even pointing it toward her own throat while laughing.

Karen Buckner, director of Children’s Community Services at the David Lawrence Center in Naples, can’t comment specifically on that case, but she said kids may act out because they don’t know where to go when they can’t understand what they feel.

“My question would be what is this person trying to communicate with us about where they are at emotionally?”

More screentime and isolation during the pandemic have also intensified impacts on children.

“We’ve had kids who already had mental health issues that had an increase in their symptoms, increased anxiety and depression that have been exasperated,” Buckner said.

Parents think it’s another good reminder to constantly talk to your kids.

“As adults, we have to do a good job of talking to them about things going on and helping the process,” said parent Roxanne Reiter.

Debbi agrees. “Take it seriously when a kid says something like, ‘Oh, I hate my life’; don’t think of it as, ‘Oh, he’s just saying that,’ because kids can feel some stuff.”

The fifth grader from Estates Elementary is being held for mental evaluation.

She faces charges of aggravated assault and having a dangerous weapon on school grounds.

RESOURCES

Warning signs to look out for in your child:

  • Isolation or refusal to attend school;
  • Changes in eating habits;
  • Withdrawal from peers or social activities;
  • Withdrawal from extracurricular activities at school or in the community; and/or
  • Reports of bullying, harassment, or intimidation in school, the community, or on social media.

Kids’ Minds Matter: https://kidsmindsmatter.com/

SalusCare has a weekly zoom support group for parents. It’s free and you do not need to be a client. It’s Monday nights at 7. Zoom ID: 975 9545 3712 Password: 488302

SalusCare Emergency Services: 239-275-4242

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255​

Disaster Distress Helpline: www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline​

Parent/Caregiver Guide for Helping Families Cope with COVID-19: www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources/fact-sheet/outbreak_factsheet_1.pdf​​

Smart Social: Monitor your kids online https://smartsocial.com/parental-control-software/​

National Association of School Psychologists: School safety and crisis

David Lawrence Center website for children

If you or a loved one are struggling, you can find support by visiting resources on the NAMI website.

For a comprehensive list of resources and organizations, you can visit This is My Brave.

For additional tools, including a treatment locator, you can visit the CDC’s mental health web page.

MORE RESOURCES

FGCU Community Counseling Center
https://www.fgcu.edu/mariebcollege/counseling/communitycounseling/

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County
namicollier.org

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry counties
namilee.org

Lee Health – Behavioral Health
https://www.leehealth.org/our-services/behavioral-health

Lee Health Foundation’s – ‘Kids Minds Matter’
https://leehealthfoundation.org/kids-minds-matter

The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers

Collier County Mental Health Court
ca.cjis20.org/home/collier

Lee County Mental Health Court
ca.cjis20.org/home/lee

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
convio.net

Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America
adaa.org

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help)
hhs.gov/programs/topic-sites/mental-health-parity

Southwest Florida Resource Link
http://www.swflresourcelink.com/services/mental-health–substance-abuse

Stop Now And Plan (SNAP)
https://floridanetwork.org/programs/snap/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
https://www.samhsa.gov/

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Talking to kids about suicide

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Jackie Winchester
Do you see a typo or an error? Let us know.
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