School-based Crisis Intervention Program
It’s been several days after the shooting at the local middle school, and details about the shooter have emerged.
The shooter—13-year-old John—had been bullied most of his life. His mother left when he was three, and his alcoholic father physically and emotionally abused him. John often went without food and clean clothes for days, and other children mocked and humiliated him. Desperate to escape the misery, John took his father’s rifle and killed his father, whom he considered to be the source of his anguish. Then, John headed to middle school, seeking additional payback. John killed 14 students and three teachers, wounded five other people, and ultimately ended his own life.
Surviving students and teachers feel pain, anger, confusion, and guilt in the shooting’s aftermath. They need your help to create a program that will help them effectively process the situation and deal with their emotions.
Your main research source will be your textbook when creating the program for the survivors. You should also use the references listed in this section or conduct your own research using reliable, relevant sources. Whether you agree or disagree with the authors, you must support your argument with reliable material from the provided sources. Also, if you have life experience in this area, you may include this information in your paper.
Shortly after a mass shooting incident, survivors, witnesses, friends, and family members of the casualties may undergo multiple phases of unusual behavior. Individuals exposed to mass violence may experience the acute, intermediate, and long-term phases (Novotney, 2018). The acute phase occurs immediately after an active shooting has happened and is characterized by shock, disbelief, and denial. The intermediate phase takes place after several days have passed since the occurrence of the mass violence and is characterized by fear, anxiety, anger and difficulty paying attention. The long-term phase manifests several months after the violent incident has occurred and is characterized by solidifying behavioral problems. The task of providing post-incident behavioral health interventions in each phase is crucial to eliminate the risk of developing severe and long-lasting disorders associated with the trauma in adults and children.
Incidents of school shootings have immense behavioral, emotional, and psychological impacts on students and teachers. Most survivors experience immediate reactions that affect their normal functioning. In the case scenario involving a school shooting at the local middle school, surviving students and teachers are expected to undergo the three phases of distress. A school-based crisis intervention program is necessary to provide mental, social, and financial support (Soma, 2017). Post-incident interventions provided should be individualized and attuned to the specific persons receiving them. In a school-based program, teachers should receive adult-focused support and students should receive child-focused interventions.
Several days after the occurrence of a school shooting, children may undergo feelings of shame, guilt, mistrust, and self-blame. Exposure to a violent incident at a younger age may lead to fear, anxiety, and increased vulnerabilities in the intermediate phase (Strom et al., 2016). Adult survivors experience grief, increased stress, decreased motivation, sleep disturbance and fear of reminders.
A school-based intervention program for mass shooting survivors should include; community outreach, psychological first aid, psychological debriefing, psycho-education, and mental health consultation (Cowan et al., 2020). In the current scenario, group intervention for the surviving students and teachers should be the first step in the program. An immediate memorial event should be organized by community members to help survivors grieve along with associated members of society. In the acute phase of distress, survivors should feel connected with friends and family as they accept the victim’s death and overcome denial and disbelief. In the aftermath of the shooting, both adult and children survivors should have support from trusted relatives and nearby loved-ones (Novotney, 2018). Community outreach activities, such as lighting a candle for the bereaved, helps to commemorate the loss as the survivors feel support so they can begin healing and accepting the human-caused loss.
Psychological first aid should be offered in the acute phase of mass violence distress to deal with immediate reactions of fear, anxiety, and helplessness. Emergency management professionals should be available to provide initial distress support. The professional involved in this phase informs the survivors and witnesses about the resources available for helping them to deal with distress (Novotney, 2018). Rapid assessment should be conducted to determine the survivors with acute distress and those requiring specialized medical attention. Psychological first aid ensures that victims and survivors are aware of the support and resources provided to remedy the effects of any trauma suffered.
In the intermediate phase of dealing with distress, survivors may undergo psychological debriefing. Debriefing should occur several days after the victims and survivors have received first aid and community-based support. In debriefing, victims are urged to speak about the traumatic incident in detail and express how they felt as the violence occurred.
A psychologist should carry out debriefing so that survivors are guided to overcome guilt and shame. The psychologist should affirm that the incident was not their fault and they could not have done anything to prevent the loss. In case survivors could have taken mitigative actions, they should discuss it with the psychologist during debriefing (Novotney, 2018). For instance, the shooter was a victim of bullying and the teachers may have prevented the shooting had they noticed signs of victimization leading to retaliation. Debriefing should assist survivors and victims to express their emotional distress and overcome self-blame.
The next step in the intervention program is psycho-education. Psycho-education should take place during the intermediate phase of distress to inform the survivors about post-traumatic reactions. Educating the survivors helps to explain the symptoms they may be experiencing such as difficulty sleeping, lack of motivation, and grief. Afterwards, psycho-education should inform the survivors about coping strategies and how long they can expect to overcome the trauma’s side effects (Novotney, 2018). During psycho-education, survivors are educated about the symptoms requiring them to seek specialized professional help. In this way, the teachers and students know how to cope with the different post-traumatic reactions they are experiencing.
The final intervention practice in the program is mental health consultation. A mental health professional should be introduced to provide mental support to survivors that continue experiencing distress in the long-term phase. The school should screen all the teachers and students for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Since survivors enter into the long-term phase several months after witnessing the traumatic incident, a permanent counsellor should be available to offer mental health support. In the final phase of the intervention program, recovering teachers and students should report an improved sense of self-worth and growing confidence to resume their previous routines. The school-based intervention program should restore the survivors to normalcy.
Cowan, R. G., Blum, C., Szirony, G., & Cicchetti, R. J. (2020). Supporting Survivors of Public Mass Shootings. Journal of Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, 14(1), 12.
Novotney, A. (2018). What happens to the survivors?. https://www.apa.org. Retrieved 19 November 2020, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/09/survivors.
Soma, C. (2017). 10 Steps Every Educator Needs to Know to Create a Trauma Informed School – Starr Commonwealth. Starr Commonwealth. Retrieved 19 November 2020, from https://starr.org/10-steps-every-educator-needs-to-know-to-create-a-trauma-informed-school/.
Strom, I. F., Schultz, J. H., Wentzel-Larsen, T., & Dyb, G. (2016). School performance after experiencing trauma: a longitudinal study of school functioning in survivors of the Utoya shootings in 2011. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 7, 31359. doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v7.31359
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