Violence, Concern, and The Institute

Sep 29, 2010

Over the past week we have learned of shootings and stabbings at Regis College, Boston College, and at Seton Hall University. These important institutions with strong religious and service identities are the last place one might expect to observe such violence. This morning, in the Boston Globe we see reports and commentary about the recent violence in our city that has led to the death of a young mother and her preschool child. This is so much food for thought and for thinking about safety, social issues and trauma, coping and the list goes on.

Earlier today, I had an email exchange with my good friend and colleague, Dean Brian Shulman at Seton Hall. His response to my attempted words of concern and encouragement: "We will get through this." These heroic words have been used so many times in recent years, as our educational institutions and the young people who are their focus have come under attack. Academic leaders and others seem to constantly have to remind their stakeholders that recovery is possible, that confidence in the future should not be undermined by a single event, and that the collective "we" is fundamental to recovery.

The images associated with these acts of violence trigger many concerns for me (and I am sure for all of us), I am trying to put my own thoughts around what we can do in the Institute community. First, assuring that we provide a safe environment for our work and study. All of us should take note of any person or situation that seems questionable. The MGH Police Officers and Security system are excellent and are available to us 24/7. Second, we should be sure that our students, as health providers, are prepared to deal with the acute and chronic "symptoms" experienced by those touched by violence. These are our patients, families, clients, and potentially our students and colleagues. Learning to communicate with, develop trust with, and address the needs of those who have experienced these problems should be part of our core skills as practitioners. We should be asking about our competence in dealing with trauma, grief, coping, and long term support and rehabilitation for those affected by violence. Finally, we should all recognize our own collective and individual role in preventing violence in the first place. The literature and the popular media have promoted the concept of the "first responder" as those individuals who intervene after an emergent situation has occurred. I believe that in many cases, those individuals are the "second responders." My hope is that our faculty, students, and alumni are true first responders--individuals who devote their work and energy to being the one who prevents, to the degree possible, the kind of violence that we have recently experienced.

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