People bring candles and flowers at the Viertola school in Vantaa, Finland, on April 2, 2024. One sixth grade pupil died and two others were seriously injured in a shooting incident at the school on Tuesday morning. The suspect is also a 12-year-old pupil at the school. LEHTIKUVA

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Following a school shooting in Vantaa on April 2, 2024, there has been an overwhelming increase in the number of children and parents reaching out for emotional support. Discussion forums specifically designed for children and their parents have been swamped with requests for assistance as they try to navigate their fears and uncertainties.

In the wake of the tragedy, over 500 conversations took place in the Apuu-chat service for children, a significant increase from the usual 100 daily interactions.

The majority of these discussions were with elementary school-aged children, expressing concerns about the possibility of a similar incident occurring at their own schools. Despite efforts to bolster responder availability, nearly 800 children sought help, with a response rate of 66%.

The Sekasin-chat, another support service, also saw nearly 200 conversations related to the shooting, highlighting the pervasive fear among children of attending school in the aftermath of such events. Many expressed worries about threats previously made to their schools coming to fruition, the condition of the victims and the perpetrator, and the ease of access to firearms.

In two instances, the situation necessitated contact with emergency services due to threats against schools discussed in the Apuu-chat. Johanna Virtanen, a digital support head at SOS Children's Villages, emphasized the potential for news of violent incidents to spur imitation, urging the media to exercise caution in reporting details of such events.

Parents, too, sought guidance on how to talk to their children about the shooting, with a record number of discussions taking place in the Parental Support chat. Virtanen stressed the importance of addressing the incident with children rather than avoiding the topic, to help them process what happened and dispel rumors circulating on social media.

In response to the heightened need for support, SOS Children's Villages immediately increased the number of available responders, anticipating a continued need for discussion in the following days.

Furthermore, the Finnish Red Cross has been actively involved in providing support at Viertola School in Vantaa, where the shooting occurred. Their psychologists and trained volunteers have been offering support to affected families and individuals, including on-site assistance for students and relatives directly impacted by the incident.

The Red Cross has also expanded its presence in community spaces such as youth centers and libraries to offer support, with volunteers greeting students at schools the morning after the shooting. This effort is part of a broader initiative to provide crisis support to those affected by the shooting, with services available through the Red Cross's Youth Shelters and the coordinated Sekasin-chat, offering anonymous conversation support for young people aged 12 to 29.

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