Updated: 4 days ago
After the "unthinkable" happens, it can be misconstrued that those impacted will have long term psychological illnesses because of the exposure to this horror. While living with some of the physiological impact of the consequences of survival will be permanent, the research shows that most people are able to regain some level of functionality on their own with appropriate immediate help and support. Normally, this is attributed to two factors: the human "built in" survival instinct and the resiliency to overcome during times of tragedy. It is most important for those in the "direct line of fire" to receive humanitarian aid and compassionate support that focuses on "coping" rather than trying to "fix". This month, JJ WOLFF COUNSELING SERVICES had the honor of providing the mental health component during a national webinar for a grocery store chain. Providing "psychological first aid" as part of the mental health component is only one piece of the puzzle of helping people recover. Having individuals who are well versed in litigation and crisis communications are essential. Ideally, all of the members of the mental health/litigation/crisis communications team work collaboratively to offer a “holistic” approach to any community group/organization/person(s) experiencing this life altering horror. Initially, the most common human reaction is complete and utter shock. This survival defense response can last for days, months or even years. At that time, all of our job is to “show up” and provide that anchor that helps guide people through the “unimaginable” .
The old saying "It Takes A Village" rings true in helping people survive from a mass casualty event such as the daily atrocities that appear to becoming much more prevalent in our society. We are presently living in a world of not always "if" but 'when". It is so incredibly important to react productively and compassionately to help “put the pieces back together again” in an established “new normal” in the aftermath of tragedy. It is important to remember that it is more than just "doing the right thing" for people. In many states, psychological injury is compensable so doing the best possible is far better than the worse response...doing nothing or not acknowledging the pain and suffering endured by those impacted.
When Ive had the honor of "showing up" for many who have encountered the 'unthinkable", my first question is usually "What do you need the most right now? "How can I offer myself to you"? A glass of water, food, a safe place/shelter , a warm touch, listening ear and message of hope can be part of the immediate “showing up”. And then we go from there…minute by minute, step by step, day by day and month by month. The process of representing is ongoing and not just after the initial crisis response has ended. it is essential that anyone in a helping role remain adaptable and available whether during the “day of” or in the weeks/months that follow. Nothing will completely be the same.