You, as a faculty or staff member, may also have either strong personal reactions to these recent tragic events or a need to discuss the response from your students. Talking about what you are going through in the wake of this awful tragedy is the most important thing you can do to take care of yourselves and each other. These guidelines are for you.
American Psychological Association (APA) article - "College and University Students: Managing Your Distress in the Aftermath of the Virginia Tech Shootings"
- A crisis situation is one in which an individual's typical coping responses don't work or may be less effective than usual.
- An individual's response to a crisis is very individualized. We must be careful not to judge another's response, especially if it's different from our own.
- The thoughts, feelings, and behaviors experienced may be in response to the event at hand as well as previous (and potentially unresolved) events from the past.
- A sense of anxiety and panic would be absolutely predictable in response to recent events. There is so much we don't know; trying to find answers to explain such a tragedy is normal. Without available explanations, the attempt to find answers may take on a flavor of desperation and seem frantic in nature. We can help by allowing people to identify and discharge all the questions, fears, and uncertainties going through their heads. It's important to validate the concerns rather than talk people out of them. Remember, in crisis situations some people may not respond in their typical rational way.
- In crisis situations, we can help people by engaging in a problem-solving approach. This would include identifying the issues and then going through a step-by-step process to identify possible solutions for resolving the problem. For example, the concern may be that the student has a friend or family member who attends Virginia Tech. Similarly, faculty and staff may have colleagues who work there. The need is to know if that friend, family member, or colleague is alright. The problem-solving steps are to find various ways to communicate with these individuals or someone else who will know if the person is okay. Also identify what the person can and cannot do, and what is within their control.
- Let students, faculty, and staff know the resources available on campus. These would include their faculty, administrative advisors, campus religious workers, staff of the Employee Assistance Program and Counseling and Psychological Services, Vice Chancellors' staffs, RD/RA's, and their fellow students, faculty, and staff.
- It is often helpful for people to just be with one another during times of crisis. Saying the "right" words isn't the most important thing; feeling connected to people close to you is more important.