Monday, December 16, 2013

Children Coping with Violence and Suicidal Loss

Another tragedy has hit our state, and children have been targeted in a place where they should feel safe: their school. Though it may take days and weeks to fully understand the details of the tragedy at Arapahoe High School, we must act quickly to help the children and youth around us to make sense of this violence.

After the Aurora shooting last year, Christine Harms, director of the Colorado School Safety Resource Center, wrote a great brief article offering advice on talking with youth about a tragedy. As parents, educators, or as members of any community, the best support we can provide is a listening ear, honesty, emphasis on the positive responses and heroism in the midst of the tragedy, and limited access to the most traumatic information and images. 

Our national mental health partners and experts have provided additional resources for responding to trauma. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a resource offering tips for speaking with children about trauma in age-appropriate ways. The American Psychological Association also highlighted ways to help children cope with this type of distress as well as ways to manage your own distress in response to a traumatic event. And the American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has a helpful list for talking with children about community violence

Additionally, we cannot forget that in addition to the violence, these youth are also coping with the loss of a classmate by suicide. This type of loss has its own unique challenges to understand and grieve this traumatic loss. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a great website on Coping with Suicidal Loss that will provide resources and tips for helping people grieve. Additionally, AFSP has a toolkit for schools on dealing with the aftermath of a suicide that provides practically and evidence-based strategies to support students after a loss without triggering suicide clusters.

The hearts of CDPHE employees and all Coloradans go out to the Arapahoe High School community and the victims and their families.

1 comment:

  1. Well said...thank you for these resources.