NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Over the course of one week in September, Metro Nashville Public Schools were the target of five online threats, according to police, and school therapists are part of Governor Bill Lee’s plan to reduce these threats and keep students safe.

Metro Nashville school-based therapist Karen Hasselman says anxiety levels remain high among students, especially considering the pressure for this year to be a truly “normal” school year after the past couple of years were disrupted by COVID-19.

“We kind of went from nothing to everything, it’s like suddenly the world is open again and there wasn’t a lot of transition,” she said.

She explained that since the start of this school year, she has been hearing from a lot of students impacted by a multitude of traumas: family members who died from COVID or violence in the community, needing to support themselves and or their families financially and low grades while remote learning.

“Sometimes, even when we think [students] are on their phones playing, they are hearing us. When they hear us as adults saying, ‘gas is so expensive or ‘we can’t afford this,’ the kids are feeling that too and sometimes they are so afraid they don’t want to add stress or they don’t know how to handle that stress plus their own stress,” Hasselman said.

When all of these factors build up and children feel pushed over the edge, therapists and psychiatrists alike who specialize in youth mental health say kids can act out and make bad decisions.

“Anxiety plays a huge part into that and sometimes depression. [Students] feeling a need to be seen or heard… just finding a need to be impulsive or unsafe at times,” she said.

Vanderbilt child psychiatrist Dr. Meg Benningfield says because of the way teenage brains develop, moments where kids say “I wasn’t thinking,” are common.

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“What we see is that there is this disconnect. They have more maturity in the part of the brain that is seeking those risks but less maturity in the part of the brain, the frontal cortex, that is really governing decision making and helping them stop to think about what the consequences of their actions will be. So, that imbalance really drives kids to do things without thinking,” Benningfield said.

Hasselman also added she is not surprised so many of these threats come from online, she said sometimes students and children don’t understand the power social media can have.

“Now, you can take one picture and you can share it with the world. You can type one text message and send it to a friend and they can share it with everyone,” she said.

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She suggests parents have more conservation with their children about what they are doing online and what is safe to do, have stressful conversations that don’t concern kids once they are in bed and check in often.