What can we do to help communities heal after a mass trauma event like the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio? How do we go about supporting the survivors and families, while also taking care of ourselves and dealing with our own feelings?
For that matter, how do we understand our own feelings of survivors guilt, anger, sadness, frustration, despair, and helplessness? These questions and so many more often fill our minds after tragic events unfold and we’re all, as human beings, left to try and make sense of it all, to grieve, to begin to heal and move forward in life.
Our guest today is an expert in the field of helping communities heal after mass shootings and other trauma’s, and she shares some of her insight and experiences with us on this episode of the podcast. Melissa Glaser, MS, LPC is a community response and recovery leader. She was the coordinator of the Newtown Recovery and Resiliency Team (NRRT) from 2014 to 2016. Glaser is currently in private practice as a psychotherapist and actively consults with other organizations and communities. Previously, Glaser has served as a clinical and behavioral health director to several Connecticut non-profit organizations.
Melissa is the author of, “Healing a Community: Lessons for Recovery after a Large-Scale Trauma”, which outlines the twenty months spent in Newtown, Connecticut as the leader of the Newtown Recovery and Resilience Team. Her task as the leader of this team was to address the emotional impact and guide the mental health response after a gunman killed twenty children and six adults at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
Our chat with Melissa does not cover the issue of gun control, nor was that the intent of bringing her on to the podcast. Rather, we wanted to talk about the ways that we as every day people can help a community heal from such a tragedy; providing insight into the needs of survivors and their families and outlining some of the struggles that face not only the community but also the first responders and mental health professionals.
- Understanding that healing from mass trauma is an ongoing process. Recovery and support teams of mental health professional and first responders are often actively in place for at least the first 21 months after the trauma.
- The various stages of recovery and healing from a mass trauma, including the crisis management stage, the consequence stages, and more.
- The need for multiple different modalities of support. Many survivors are not able to utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other similar modalities due to not being able to express their needs verbally, immediately after a trauma. Other supportive methods including art therapy, music therapy, acupuncture, and yoga can be vital to helping survivors feel grounded.
- The challenge of dealing with the media after a mass shooting. How their desire to get a story out by asking survivors and family members to talk about what happened can cause a tremendous amount of guilt, confusion, and anxiety. In addition, Melissa shares how the vulnerability in sharing is often caused by a need to talk about the victim because of the fear of not being heard later, especially due to so many emotions in play immediately after a tragic event takes place.
- The agenda of politicians to try and portray a community that will be ok, that will heal, and pick up the pieces. That message of unity, while likely done with the best of intentions can have a negative effect due to the time it takes to heal and trust that’s been shattered.
- The challenge of survivors guilt. When the community is portrayed as a group that is strong and resilient; that guilt of not feeling ok can cause survivors to be afraid or ashamed to ask for help because they are still struggling.
- What have learned from past mass shootings, and are we improving in our responsiveness and providing access to resources and support for victims and their families.
We appreciate Melissa Glaser’s willingness to come on the podcast and share her insight on this topic that affects us all so much. You can learn more about her work as a counselor and her book, on her website, MelissaGlaser.com.
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All conversation and information exchanged during participation on Beyond Your Past Radio and BeyondYourPastRadio.com is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing on the podcast or posted on the above-mentioned website are supplements for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers.