By September 1 of this year, there had been more mass shootings in the United States than the number of days that had passed, some taking place inside schools. Following school shootings in places like Connecticut, Texas, Florida, and Colorado, many students wonder how to re-integrate themselves back into their classrooms, sports teams, and arts performances, going about their schoolwork as business as usual.
That’s why school counselors and administrators have been pulled into the spotlight, with their training, experience, and education asked to come in and help students with grieving, solutions, and turning into survivors instead of victims.
Here, we take a look at how schools can utilize their resources in order to help students handle traumatic events that take place on campus.
Every school should have in place a disaster mental health/psychological intervention plan that utilizes internal school resources and external community resources, such as those from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). From there, crisis intervention teams should be formed, consisting of school counselors, teachers, staff, and school leadership.
Everyone involved should be trained in everything physical first aid to psychological first aid, no matter their backgrounds. It’s important that all members of a crisis response team pursue ongoing training and rehearsal scenarios in order to retain responsible action.
For external community resources, counselors can get in touch with police agencies, fire departments, hospitals, and local incident stress management teams to take advantage of assistance from well-trained psychological crisis professionals.
Schools have an obligation to look over credentials of any external agency they reach out to for help to make sure they are following the same intervention protocols. While licensure in mental health services is important, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have adequate training in psychological first aid.
During or right after an incident occurs, no matter what kind of incident it is, school authorities should keep the public informed through various channels, such as social media, to inform all appropriate parties of any updates. It’s important to get out ahead of the information and provide honest and up-to-date information as false rumors have a way of getting out and taking over the narrative.
Venues deemed safe for psychological crisis intervention should be formed beforehand for those who have been affected in some way. Staff with training around psychological first aid and security should be on hand to help students in any way. What’s more, there should be arrangements made in advance for follow-up counseling sessions for students.
After kids return to school, an assembly regarding the incident should be held to discuss what happened, who or what caused the issue, and anticipated effects of the incident. Any actions being taken to prevent similar issues should also be discussed. Following this, students should return to class and be open to small group discussions of what was discussed at the assembly.
While not every school shooting or bomb scare or mass fight can be prevented, having knowledge of how to problems in real-time and being prepared to help students through it are must-have measures for every school.
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