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To prevent school violence, teachers learn how to spot mental illness

School ShootingBy Erika Angulo, Producer, NBC News

 

In classrooms across the country, teachers are going back to school to learn how to spot symptoms of mental illness among their students.

It’s all part of an effort to prevent incidents such as this week’s shooting at an elementary school in Georgia, which could have ended in disaster were it not for the quick thinking of school bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff. Suspect 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill told Tuff he was mentally unstable and had nothing to live for, but she calmed him down, and convinced him to surrender.
Mental illness also played a role in the December shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn., and the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado 14 years ago.
The teacher training program, created by the American Psychiatric Foundation (AFP), is called “Typical or Troubled?” From custodians to counselors, school staff members are taught how to spot behaviors that may appear to be typical of teenagers, but may in fact be signals of troubling thought patterns.
Among the symptoms teachers are instructed to look for: persistent sadness, irritability, withdrawal and even a major change in eating habits. Teachers in 21 states and the District of Columbia will receive a bookmark listing the warning signs to keep handy.
When a student is determined to suffer from several of the symptoms, the child’s family will be contacted and the teen will be referred to a specialist.

 

 

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