The 15-year-old accused in a brutal stabbing at Snohomish High School was taking anti-depressants according to court documents, and said she had been seeing a mental health specialist.
While a majority of mentally ill people are not violent, this incident has certainly raised questions among parents of how safe students are in school.
According to the Surgeon General, one in five American kids suffers from some form of mental illness. Washington state does not require parents to tell the school if their child is mentally ill.
Psychologist Dr. Brian Riedesel said it can be hard for parents to tell if their child is simply experiencing the usual teenage stresses, or if there is something more serious going on. But, there are important warning signs, said Dr. Riedesel.
“Confused thinking is a concern, being disoriented, having intense fears that are out of proportion are all indicators. Also, a sudden change in eating or sleeping habits, prolonged depression and substance abuse,” said Riedesel.
Under Washington state law, all students have a right to public education, whether they have mental health issues or not. Dr. Marsha Blasingame, head of the Counseling and Forensic Psychology Department at Argosy University, said only in extreme cases should affected students be kept out of school.
“Mental illness is serious and it touches the life of virtually every family in the country. If it’s not your child or parent, it’s a friend. It’s there and it can be very devastating as in the case at Snohomish,” said Dr. Blasingame. “If the person isn’t seriously mentally ill and out of control they fare much better to be in the school system with their peers participating to the full extent in everything life has to offer.”
The suspect in the stabbing did tell investigators she had been taking Prozac, but it is unclear if she had been taking it in the days leading up to the attack. Regarding mental health services for students, each district handles that differently. Snohomish contracts its services with Compass Health, but we do not know if that is where the suspect was being treated.