After a crisis event, people can exhibit different reactions that, to some extent, correlate with their attitude towards the event itself. Nevertheless, all of them need professional help or a program to help cope with mental issues that might arise if no intervention is administered. In the given case study, it is evident that different groups of people involved in the accident display different needs which require a coping program tailored to their specific needs. In this paper, a program that includes a set of recommendations and guidelines for people experiencing pain, anger, confusion, and guilt will be discussed.
General Guidelines for Coping Intervention
There have been multiple strategies discussed in the academic literature. Most of them have a stage in which a counselor first establishes a relationship with a patient when the latter can speak freely of his feelings. Kanel (2014) suggests that this is one of the most important stages at which a professional could build a rapport. This stage sets ground for patients to feel comfortable to relay their thoughts and ideas about the situation. At the next stage, a counselor tries to identify the cause and facets of negativity that brought up the crisis (Dass-Brailsford, 2007). Later, a therapist seeks for signs of coping practices that the client tried himself or herself. This is a ground for further actions that a counselor uses to encourage positive practices and behaviors (Kanel, 2014). In the case of multiple people requiring assistance, especially in schools, screening tools can become effective for the preliminary assessment and identification of issues (UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools, 2008).
The interventions may not require individual sessions and work best in group ones. Those who try to cope with some issue often tend to seek advice from people with a similar issue (Kanel, 2014). A leader of those group sessions or counselor at individual ones may develop a plan of coping actions that individuals then implement and report on the results during follow-ups (Dass-Brailsford, 2007). Follow-ups are essential for checking progress and ensuring remission is underway. Each feeling can arise in different people and for different reasons, which is why they need to be separated if treated in group sessions.
Coping with Pain
The tragic events of the shooting created vulnerable population that needs assistance. Among the ranks of this group may be parents of the victims who were shot during the accident. Myer, Peterson, and Willow (2002) suggest that coping with loss usually flows through the same stages including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A person at each stage can exhibit different reactions that may take the form of post-traumatic stress disorder if not managed properly (Roberts, 2002). Open-ended questions are considered good practice to let a person in pain relay his or her feelings connecting them to reality in the process. Accepting the reality of what happened and moving on – are the tasks that mourning as a process of adaptation to loss has to accomplish. A task of friends, relatives, and a counselor is to support, communicate, observe the changes, and navigate the process towards the final stage.
Here, as Kanel (2014) suggests, pain is a natural feeling that is essential to the process of mourning. It is vital, that a patient experiences and manifests the whole range of emotions during this phase. Mishna (2009) notes that suppressing feelings could only aggravate the situation and lead to the development of serious mental issues. An average period of adaptation takes up to three-four months (Kanel, 2014). After that, provided a patient went normally through all stages of mourning, he or she realizes that life needs to continue. Finally, an energy that has been channeled to a deceased is being rerouted into something else. According to Kanel (2014), for this stage to be finished at least one year needs to pass. Pain can be experienced not only by the parents and relatives of the students who were shot. Their friends can also be in pain, yet, arguably, due to a less tight connection, they traverse the stages easier, and emotions rarely become abnormal. It could be of great help to the therapy and rehabilitation if someone apart from a counselor supports a person coping with loss (Kanel, 2014).
Coping with Anger
Anger is a feeling that can be active and passive. Depending on a person, anger can take aggressive forms and manifest in shouting or hitting people, things, and oneself. A counselor’s task is to identify the reason for anger and who it is directed on. In this case, anger can be experienced by parents towards the dead shooter or the school authorities who did not maintain the acceptable level of security, which resulted in the death of their son or daughter. A therapist needs to assure such person that anger is a normal feeling in that situation. However, similar to other coping strategies, management of one’s emotions is what a patient needs to be guided towards regardless of age. In adults, anger management is an essential skill, which could be noted by a professional in order to convince a patient to abandon his or her lust for revenge.
Anger is a strong feeling that can be very destructive if unmanaged. Extreme caution should be maintained if a person surprisingly easy agrees to abandon the quest revenge (if such was ever spoken about). According to Kanel (2014) and Mishna (2009) therapists are better to report a client that can be a danger to other people. Signs of possible violence against others may include the history of aggressive behavior, the feeling of submissiveness to an outside force, thoughts of violence, antisocial behavior, and so forth.
In most cases, anger cases can be effectively managed in group therapy sessions (Kanel, 2014). Counselor or leader can reframe anger by pointing out alternative outcomes of violence and aggression. For instance, a grieving father experiencing anger and aggression towards a school director could be presented with the fact that for a mere selfish satisfaction of killing the principal he would end up in prison, endangering the future of the rest of his family and ruining the rest of his life.
Coping with Confusion
Confusion is often a feeling of not knowing what to do or how to react to a situation (Greenstone & Leviton, 2010). After a school shooting with multiple victims, confusion may surface in classmates, schoolmates, or just students who witnessed or heard of the accident. Shock is a more severe state of confusion in which a person often loses a sense of reality and sometimes can abstain from mental activity. A source of confusion, in this case, is a witnessed event that is beyond experience that an individual experience. To help a person come back to senses realize what happened and form an opinion about the event one might need group therapy or counseling sessions. Clarification questions are required to break through confusion (Dass-Brailsford, 2007). Asking a person to think about what happened, what it means to him or her, in what way this experience changes his or her views on school, guns, what lessons did he or she learn from this, and other questions can help clear confusion.
It is equally important to provide a client with relevant and factual information about what happened such as a background of a shooter, and the circumstances of the shooting. This could help form an adequate view of reality (Greenstone & Leviton, 2010). A counselor or group session leader should not try to force a person to ‘right’ decisions, as in case of personal opinion, there are no right and wrong opinions there are socially acceptable and unacceptable ones. It is important to inquire and help form a position rather than pushing to accept a popular stance.
Confusion is not that severe a consequence to become concerned as a parent or as a teacher, yet intervention could help stay alert for negative changes. As such, it could be an issue if a confused person as a result of sessions comes to believe that a shooter is a hero. In this case, it could become a signal towards working at a deeper level. Parents and school officials should also be notified. The amount of new and conflicting information could also become a reason for confusion and may require intervention (Greenstone & Leviton, 2010). In this case, the Internet can become a problem as younger teens may not receive factual information there, relying on rumors and media stories. It is essential here to encourage a young person to form an original opinion of events based on facts.
Coping with Guilt
Guilt, in this case, may arise from having treated John unjustly. It may arise in teachers, and schoolmates after the tragic circumstances of his life surfaced. Students who survived seeing parents who mourn their deceased sons and daughters can also develop a sense of guilt for surviving. The notion of possible prevention of the shooting can lead some susceptible people to problems with sleep, eating disorders, distractedness, self-punishment, and so on (Flannery, Modzeleski, & Kretschmar, 2013). Counselling and group sessions could help resolve inner strain. Firstly, guilt can be reframed into positive emotions, “would those who died want you always to feel guilty?” “What good your guilt does to you or to the deceased?” It is only moral to feel guilt, yet a councilor should guide such people to rehabilitation. Another possible intervention here would be to suggest patients with unresolved guilt to concentrate their effort on preventing such tragedies from happening again. In this way, people could channel their guilt into action and “restore their good name” in the face of those who make them feel wrong.
All things considered, a program for coping with pain, anger, confusion, and guilt requires to divide people into groups to conduct sessions as on a scale of a school it could be challenging to provide individual counseling sessions to all people. Preliminary screening could help build groups for counseling. The plan involves establishing trust with students, parents, and teachers in need of assistance to identify the source and the nature of the problem to suggest effective coping strategies. This plan could help multiple groups of people relieve themselves from toxic feelings and continue living normal lives.
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Flannery, D. J., Modzeleski, W., & Kretschmar, J. M. (2013). Violence and school shootings. Current Psychiatry Reports, 15(1), 331-336.
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