I wrote this blogpost for those involved in the tragedy in Newtown. A few days ago, it was sadly directly relevant again, for the survivors of the attacks in Boston. And today (18/4), it goes for the survivors in Texas. Please find resources below and let me know if you have any questions.
An extended version of this blogpost has been published on the Huffington Post.
With the storm of media attention for the terrible events and the enormous social media response, it may be difficult to tell what is evidence-informed advice and which are well-intended-but-ungrounded tips.
Therefore, below is a quick and limited overview of links that can be trusted:
- Tipsheets and resources tailored to affected children and families (NCTSN)
- The Psychological First Aid manual: a very comprehensive guide for immediate support after mass-trauma (NCTSN & National Center for PTSD). There is also the Psychological First Aid App.
- Considerations for working with young traumatized children (Dr. De Young)
- A comprehensive article on helping children after disaster (NYU Child Study Center)
- A book with information and tasks to help children cope with war and terrorism (University of Miami)
- Insights on helping youth after the Norway shooting: Lean forward and be there (Dr. Dyb)
In particular, I find the five core elements described by Hobfoll et al (2007) very helpful:
- Promote a sense of safety. Make sure survivors feel as comfortable as possible, and reassure them that they are safe now (when they really are).
- Promote calming. For survivors who are overwhelmed by emotions (e.g. a panic attack), help them to breathe slowly (with an emphasis on breathing out) and to be aware of their body (e.g., feet on the ground) and surroundings.
- Promote a sense of self- and community efficacy. It is important for survivors to feel in control (as opposed to in the traumatic situation). Empower survivors by facilitating their own decision making. It often helps to pick up normal routines as soon as possible.
- Promote connectedness. Social support turns out to be one of the most important predictors of recovery. Help survivors to activate their network and receive both emotional and material support (e.g., have someone cook a meal).
- Instill hope. Most people are resilient and will recover from a traumatic event without needing professional help. Survivors who are optmisitic and feel confident about their capacitie to recover are more likely to experience a good outcome.
While writing, I’m wondering whether you feel these resources answer the questions that people have at this moment? The families and professionals who need the information will not have much time or energy to surf on the internet. Do we reach them at all and in a way that is convenient for them?
For further reading and more resources, including international ones, see the earlier posts on helping children after disaster, the shooting in Norway, the shooting in Luik/Liège, and the bus crash in Switzerland.