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Help for Chardon High after School Shootings

16 Apr

Hello again.  

Well, we’ve built a web page to help with yet another school shooting, this time in our own back yard – Chardon High School.

The bad news is that these terrible shootings keep happening.  The good news, I suppose, is that we’re better informed about what resources actually help kids, faculty, parents and staff recover; and we can provide them quickly and easily, thanks to the accessibility of websites, links and downloads.

I remember back after the Columbine High shootings, we were invited to come out to Littleton, which we did, with boxes and boxes of what were then brand new, hot-off-the-press cassettes of the then new Healing Trauma imagery.

From what we could tell, the cassettes were used some and helped some of those affected, but long term data was hard to come by – mainly because of high staff attrition.  (A year later, we learned that the faculty had more residual emotional difficulty than the students, because of feeling guilty and responsible over their “failure” to protect the kids. Many left their jobs and even the state.)  

Since that time, cassettes have disappeared and now we build web pages that offer basic information about typical reactions to trauma, and deliver downloads of actual guided imagery interventions.  This is a big improvement.  It’s user-friendly - kids can upload these audio tools directly to their phones, which they use all the time anyway – definitely the perfect delivery system of a treatment tool for an adolescent. And it’s far easier for us to make a donation, because, unlike those boxes of cassettes, it won’t cost us an arm and a leg.

Since those early days we’ve also learned not to start with the intense, evocative Healing Trauma imagery right after a traumatic event.  Survivors in the immediate aftermath do much better with re-regulating their agitated nervous systems and biochemistry using brief, simple relaxation exercises, like counting the breath, repeating calming words or phrases, or doing progressive relaxation first. Sometimes that’s all they need to bring them back into balance and manage distress when it spikes. Others do well moving on to using the more intense, deeper-going imagery in a second phase.  But either way, they need to acquire and solidify those simple relaxation skills first.  

That way, when a kid gets triggered, they’ve got their phone, and they can access in seconds a simple guided exercise that gets their breathing and heart rate back to normal.  And it doesn’t look like they’re “self-administering an intervention” – it looks like they’re on the phone or listening to music. And the basic info on the page assures them that they haven’t lost their minds – rather, this is what trauma aftermath looks and feels like.

So, sad to say we’ve gotten some experience creating these pages over recent years, including for survivors of Katrina, Virginia Tech, the Tucson shootings and other kinds of devastation.  

Some of you practitioners who live in areas that have been similarly impacted by violence, natural disaster, industrial accidents or the like - you might want to think about doing the same for the traumatized people in your area.  

Here’s what we have for Chardon High. The downloads are free but password protected. Borrow and adapt liberally for your situation – all we ask is that you throw a footnote our way if you’re using whole chunks of our text.

Take care,


 

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award