No warning signs in troubled teens? Maybe we're not looking close enough

We're always told to report what we see, but what if the signs are well-hidden or invisible and there's nothing to see?

A Jackson Township teenager had it all planned out.

He was going to be the next mass shooter, taking out as many students as he could.

After an apparent change of heart, the 7th grader committed suicide in the school’s restroom.

Police said there were few, if any, warning signs.

“This young man did not use social media very often, but what we have been able to find up to this point does not indicate that he showed his plan or had anybody who was working with him,” Police Chief Mark Brink said.

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We’re always told to report what we see, but what if the signs are well-hidden or invisible and there’s nothing to see?

Sheila Wagler-Mills, counselor from Encompass Christian Counseling, said that is typically not the case.

"Statistics tell us that in four out of five cases there are signs, 80 percent of the time if we know what we're looking for there are signs,” Wagler-Mills said.

She said the signs are not invisible, they’re typically unnoticed and there are risk factors that make that more of a possibility: Parents involved in drug use, domestic violence, divorce, separation, death in the family, etc.

"When you're hurting, it's hard to take care of yourself and take care of your children so there may be times when children are slipping through the cracks,” Wagler-Mills said.

If they do happen to slip through the proverbial cracks, it could make it harder to see other warning signs that’s something isn’t right.

"We want to watch for any kind of changes in character but especially isolating, any form of anxiety, depression, expression of helplessness, worthlessness,” Wagler-Mills said. "We might see a child sleeping too much, not sleeping."

Connection is key: Taking advantage of family time, talking instead of relying on social media and staying connected with your community can all make a difference.

"I tend to be a believer in the fact that it takes a village to raise a child,” she said. "Anyone in that child's life can make a difference."

If you notice any signs of your child acting out of character or suddenly different, low performance in school or any of the above signs, please seek help from a counselor or therapist.

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