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When Cries for Help Go Unanswered

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

Months before killing six students, a 15-year-old gunman went to his parents for help but was rebuffed, investigators said. According to, months before Ethan Crumbley allegedly opened fire on his classmates in the hallways of Oxford High School, killing four of them, he told a friend he was in the grips of a mental breakdown and needed help. When he told his parents, they rebuffed him, told him to “suck it up” and laughed at him, Ethan told his friend. In his journal, near drawings of guns and people being shot, Ethan wrote he had “zero help for my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot up a (expletive)ing school.” He hoped the massacre would be the biggest in Michigan’s history.

Deputies with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office testified to these details during the Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 continuation of a preliminary examination for Ethan’s parents. The parents are each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, a 15-year felony, for allegedly being criminally negligent in not preventing the Nov. 30, 2021 mass shooting, which police and prosecutors say was carried out by their 15-year-old sophomore son.

The shooting claimed the lives of students Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17. Six more students and a teacher also suffered gunshot wounds.

Violence and Mental Illness

A June 2021 study found that many mass shooters in America suffered from a mental illness that wasn't being treated when they committed their crime. Another study of 331 individuals with severe mental illness reported that 17.8 percent "had engaged in serious violent acts that involved weapons or caused injury." It also found that "substance abuse problems, medication noncompliance, and low insight into illness operate together to increase violence risk." It should be noted that many behavioral health experts agree that a complex combination of factors influence any person’s risk for violent behavior, not just risk among those with mental illness.

Signs Someone is Struggling

Mental illness or general mental health struggles are not always noticeable. However, according to, major mental health struggles rarely appear “out of the blue.” Most often family, friends, teachers or individuals themselves begin to recognize small changes or a feeling that “something is not quite right” about their thinking, feelings or behavior before an illness appears in its full-blown form.

Learning about a person's symptoms can be early warning signs, and taking action can help. It may even be possible to delay or prevent a major mental illness and it certainly can be helpful in preventing a person from becoming violent against others.

If you notice a loved one or friend showing a few of the following behavioral changes, it may be time to intervene with professional help.

  • Asking for Help - Certainly if a person outwardly asks for help, its imperative that it never be taken lightly and that the person reaching out is not made to feel ashamed. It stands to reason that most people won't ASK for help unless they are truly in need of help. A request for help should never be mocked or ignored.

  • Sleep or appetite changes — prolonged changes to a person’s sleep patterns could be a symptom of a mental health issue. For example, insomnia could be a sign of anxiety or substance abuse. Sleeping too much or too little could indicate depression or a sleeping disorder. For some people, fluctuating weight or rapid weight loss could be one of the warning signs of a mental health disorder, such as depression or an eating disorder.

  • Mood changes — Rapid or dramatic shifts in emotions or depressed feelings.

  • Withdrawal — Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in activities that the person had previously enjoyed.

  • Function Drop — An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks.

  • Problems thinking — Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.

  • Stimulus Sensitivity — Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; or if the person is avoiding over-stimulating situations.

  • Indifference — Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity.

  • Feeling disconnected — A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality.

  • Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking.

  • Feeling Anxious or WorriedWe all get worried or stressed from time to time. But anxiety could be the sign of a mental health disorder if the worry is constant and interferes all the time. Other symptoms of anxiety may include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headache, sweating, trembling, feeling dizzy, restlessness, diarrhea or a racing mind.

  • Unusual behavior – Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior.

What You Can Do

If you know someone is in crisis, the chances are high that they’ll need more than just your support, and they’ll need it for the long haul, including that of professionals. Your loved one will need a strong network of care, as well as a plan if things should escalate. Whenever possible, you should involve your loved one in any and all decisions that impact them. What your loved one needs more than anything is unconditional love and positive support. No one chooses to be in crisis, and a mental health crisis is not an accurate reflection of who someone is. Defining someone by their struggles can have a deep impact on how they internalize what’s happening and their ability to recover. Helping them make better choices for their own well-being can help, shaming them for their struggles will not.

Resources for People Needing Help

If you or someone you know is in immediate need of mental health resources, here are a few suggestions

Use Lifeline Chat on the web

The Lifeline is a free, confidential crisis service that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Lifeline connects people to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

Text “HELLO” to 741741 The Crisis Text hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the U.S. The Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor who can provide support and information.

Social Media Posts

Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency.

Developing Communities of Support in Schools

Here at the NASCPC, we pride ourselves in pursuing collaborative approaches to school safety that are inclusive of many facets of of the school safety ecosystem. When a student is struggling, for whatever reason, it is our societal duty to provide resources to help. Our children depend on us to keep them safe. All students deserve this, even if they themselves are the ones displaying the concerning behaviors. By engaging a holistic approach to school safety, we can be the bedrock of support that encourages meaningful and lasting change in the lives of our children.

"The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results."

If you need help instituting or improving your school's safety ecosystem, please reach out to us today.

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