Gregory Jantz, MA
Supporting Others and Supporting Ourselves During Crisis
The most recent school shooting is now the second incidence of school violence that has hit uncomfortably close to home for me in the last year. On June 5 of this year, a student at my Alma Mater, Seattle Pacific University, opened fire killing one student and wounding two others. A little more than 6 months later, the shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck Hill School, a student opened fire on what many believed to be his friends sitting at a lunch table, killing two students and then taking his own life. Marysville-Pilchuck Hill School is located just 25 miles north of my practice in Edmonds, WA.
Even though there has been a devastating number of school shootings in our country over the last ten years, how and why children revert to such violence is still shocking. Despite our own personal connection to these events, or our shared devastation and befuddlement, as psychologists, counselors, and therapists, we are often the first line of response for the mental trauma caused by these tragic incidences of school violence. It is therefore in the wake of this tragedy that I feel it timely to share reminders for not only how to care for the people you may need to help during such crises, but also how to care for yourself.
The American School Counselor Association published these seven key pieces of advice for helping children during a crisis:
- Try and keep routines as normal as possible. Children gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
- Limit exposure to television and the news.
- Be honest with children and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.
- Listen to childrens’ fears and concerns.
- Reassure children the world is a good place, but that there are people who do bad things.
- Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress.
- Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.
As caregivers, supporters, and confidants, we are not immune to our own feelings, emotions, anxieties, and burnouts. It is therefore even more crucial during these crisis moments that we take the necessary care of our own health and wellbeing. Burnout or compassion fatigue is a real issue that can affect therapists, counselors and pastors at anytime during their practice. Dealing with aftermath from traumatic events, however, can sometime push us over the edge. Vicarious Traumatization or Secondary Traumatic Stress is another, common issue experienced by counselors and therapists when dealing with an extreme trauma.
Here are a few easy techniques to practice self-care and to set necessary boundaries to avoid incidences of compassion fatigue and vicarious traumatization:
- Get sufficient sleep
- Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet
- Connect with friends, family and people that “fill you up”
- Exercise regularly
- Take regular breaks and time for yourself
- Limit TV, technology and internet exposure
- Pray regularly, read the Scripture, and connect with God and your spiritual community
Sometimes, however, these self-care techniques are not enough. When you begin to notice irregularities in your sleep patterns, mental health, emotional well-being, eating habits, drinking habits, or your relationships with those around you and especially with God, you may need to seek out a Professional Wellness Program.
Professional wellness programs enable you to take a full week (or more) away from your personal and professional environment, providing an exclusive opportunity for rejuvenation, revitalization, and spiritual growth. You work with highly qualified peers in your industry, discussing and collaborating on new techniques and procedures. Many facilities, like ours, offer CEUs. Finally, you receive private, individualized care for personal issues you identify prior to your arrival. Our world-class staff creates a program designed specifically for your needs.
For more information about our Professional Health and Wellness Program, please visit www.aplaceofhope.com/our-programs/professional-health-and-wellness-program or call 1-888-747-5592 and get the care you need today.