Wednesday, November 5, 2014

MARYSVILLE-PILCHUCK- The Search for Answers

The students of Marysville-Pilchuck High School (MPHS) returned to school on Monday, but, their feelings still must be raw having experienced the tragedy of October 24th. Going back to classes is a return to “normal.” But for these students normal may take a long time as they sort out their feelings and emotions. The school administration recognized this situation as they set up Monday’s schedule. That day was for healing and support, something that will be needed for many months, if not years, to come.

As with the other similar school tragedies that have occurred around the country, we seek answers to why and how such a thing could happen to precious young people. Those answers will not come easy. We may never really know the why. The how may give some enlightenment. But our search for answers has the motivation to prevent this kind of thing from happening to our youth in the future.

Since the shooting, local media coverage has included observations about social media, depression, and abuse.

Social media- Social media (this includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, instant messaging, and texting) is being used more and more to communicate between family, friends, business associates, neighbors, etc. Teens have been early users of social media to talk to their friends and family. The press uses Twitter and Facebook to inform its readers and viewers about events throughout the day.

Skeptics point to social media as a distracting influence, taking the user’s attention from one on one conversations, family time, and class lectures. Others point out that for teens, social media allows them to connect with friends in an environment where their time is much more regulated with activities by parents, than older generations. Some form of social media is probably here to stay. The challenge is to learn to use it effectively and safely.

The shooting at MPHS (as well as the landslide at Oso) is an example of social media’s benefits and pitfalls. Social media allowed the students to let parents know that they were OK and to try to sort out what was going on among their friends. The problem with social media was that much of the information was raw, unanalyzed information (what we might call wild rumors). The information that was flying around was too often mis-information that caused confusion and unnecessary heartbreak to an already tragic situation. News agencies have a responsibility to check out the information that they receive before they print, post or broadcast. Local law enforcement agencies, such as the Sheriff’s Office, has a responsibility to protect the privacy of individuals as it conducts operations and investigations. Finding out what is going on may take a little longer from these sources, but we would likely have a better sense of the truth than on relying solely on rumor.

Add to that, individuals who try to bully affected victims, post threats, or take advantage of the situation to make a profit causes even more hurt and confusion. The challenge is to learn how to sort out the fact from fiction and when to believe information that you are reading on your smart phone and when not to believe it.

The Herald:                                                                                                                            

The Seattle Times:


Depression- Depression can be a problem for teen students trying to cope with modern high school life. According to the latest Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, 25 to 30 percent of teens questioned said that they were depressed with 6 to 8 percent saying that they had attempted suicide.

Getting help and support for someone who has depression is important and in some cases may be life saving; that help can come from family, friends or, if needed, from a professional.

Tell tale signs of depression might be difficult to sort out. Friends might see signs in person or through social media messages. Parents should be involved with their children to see signs of possible depression.

Some signs may include:

  • A drop in school grades
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts

For more information about depression go to the following link:


Abuse- In a program broadcast by KING-TV over the weekend, “Tough Times: Teens and Parents Town Hall,” abuse and domestic violence came up as problems that many teens often have to face in their relationships.

Abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological/emotional, or financial.

Some warning signs of abuse include:

·         The victim:
o   Feels afraid of their partner
o   Avoids certain topics in order not to anger their partner
o   Feels that they cannot do anything right for their partner
o   Believes that they deserve to be hurt
o   Feels emotionally numb or helpless

·         The perpetrator:
o   Humiliates, criticizes, or yells at their partner
o   Criticizes partner for little things
o   Acts excessively jealous and possessive
o   Controls where their partner goes and what they do
o   Keeps partner from seeing friends or family
o   Constantly checks up on their partner

For more information about abuse, go to:


Only the families, friends, and school staff who were at Marysville-Pilchuck on that day of the shooting have a credible sense for what happened. Those of us who are not directly involved with the situation at Marysville-Pilchuck have received most of our information second or third hand. It is too easy to draw conclusions without accurate knowledge. Reporters will cover more aspects of this “story.” Local law enforcement agencies continue with their investigation. We may never really know and understand the how and the why.

But elements of what we know may help us in our everyday lives.

Social media is a new tool for communicating. It has its limitations and benefits. Should we use social media less? Can we tell through social media that someone is calling out for help? Thoughtful reflection should help us use this new tool more effectively and wisely.

Depression and abuse are common problem, not only for teenagers, but for adults as well. While the role of depression or abuse in the MPHS shooting may not have been determined, they are common enough problems that they need to be addressed by families, school staff, friends, and professionals.

For more information about these subjects, go to KING TV’s “Tough Times: Teens and Parents” web page for video clips of a discussion with a sampling of Puget Sound teens and resources for more information and help:




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