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Valley psychologist encourages communication in wake of Florida shooting

Posted at 10:19 PM, Feb 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-26 08:16:19-05

A child psychologist based in the Valley wants all parents to be able to recognize warning signs in kids before they turn to violence. 

Dr. Paula McCall says her heart broke when she saw the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. 

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"Just disbelief," McCall said. "I go immediately to wondering, what was missed earlier on?"

The accused shooter, Nikolas Cruz, 19, in Florida dealt with the death of his mother last year. 

While Dr. McCall is not connected to Cruz or the Florida case, she says it's always important to pay attention to kids or teens who deal with a death. 

"We don't want to just assume that they're ok," McCall said. "If a child experiences some sort of situation or a loss or just a challenging time and they're just saying they're ok, they might be ok, but we need to do a little bit more as far as encouraging that communication."

Dr. McCall also recommends asking tough questions, even if you're afraid of the answer if you think something is wrong. 

"The feedback that I've gotten, especially from teenagers, is that it means you really want to hear it," McCall said. "A lot of people will ask you, how are you doing? What they want to hear, is they want to hear they're fine, so they give them that. But if someone comes up and says directly, 'hey are you thinking about hurting yourself'? Are you thinking about hurting someone else? From the feedback that I've gotten, it feels to them like you actually want to know the answer."

Dr. McCall says youth who turn to violence, either against others or themselves, tend to be isolated or disconnected. She says there is always an opportunity to try and help. 

"It can be extremely challenging and there might need to be a lot of resources brought together, and there might need to be lots of treatment options to consider," she said. "But I don't think that it's ever too late."