Campus Trauma: Untimely Death or Serious Injury

Information about an untimely death or serious injury in our community is provided to the College community by an e-mail message from the President or a member of the President’s Staff. In some circumstances, the message may also be delivered by telephone and messaging systems using Emergency Notification communications.

Needed decisions are made by the President, in consultation with members of President’s Staff, the Chaplain, the Medical Director, Director of Public Safety, and area hospital, with input from others as appropriate.

When a death or serious injury occurs, the College Medical Director or an area hospital involved may contact the family first. The Dean of the College, Dean of the Faculty, Director of Human Resources or other official will then contact the family.  Please note that it is important that the first communication to the family of a victim must be done sensitively and appropriately by a medical official or by an appropriate College official.  Your support, as important as it may be, will come later.

The Dean of the College, Commons Heads and Deans, Chaplain, Dean of the Faculty, or Director of Human Resources will work with, and offer support to, families and others who are affected.

The Vice President for Communications and/or Director of Public Affairs communicate with external media when that is appropriate. In some instances, the College Medical Director may assist in the communication.

Here is some information about trauma support:

Dealing with Crisis and the Traumatic Events

(Excerpts fromPace University Trauma Brochure, Rosa B. Ament, Ph. D., Director ofDevelopment & Personal Development Center)

What Is A Traumatic Experience?

A traumatic experience is an event inwhich an individual experiences, or witnesses an actual or threatened serious injury or death. The threat or actual occurrence may be to oneself or others. It is quite
normal for people to experience emotional and physical after-shocks or stress reactions following a traumatic event. Sometimes these after-shocks appear immediately after the event. And sometimes it
takes a few hours, days or evenweeks before stress reactions appear. An individual’s response may include intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Depending on the severity of the event, the signs and
symptoms of these reactions may last a few days, severalweeks or months, or longer. The way an individual copes with crises depends on their own history and prior experiences. Sometimes these
traumatic events are so painful that professional assistance may be necessary in order to cope with them.

What Is Crisis Intervention?
Crisis intervention offers immediate, intensive, and brief professional assistance to people who have had a traumatic experience. The purpose is to help an individual cope and return to a previous level of physical or emotional functioningwithout being at risk of endangering himself or others. This short-term professionalsupport attempts to dealwith the immediate crisis or problem. Its prompt and focused
interventions help prevent the development of new coping skills to help the individual function more effectively.

Types of Crises

People filter threatening experiences through their own unique way of thinking and feeling. Depending on the trauma and one’s “filter”, some people may have less of a reaction while others may develop more
severe symptoms. A number of crises may occur that can affect different groups of people like students, employees or society as a whole. At one end of the continumthese crises could include a strike, assault, physical injury, accident, death, suicide, robbery, homicide, and rape. Other events that affect a broader spectrum of people would include: fire, natural disasters, riots, terrorismand racial incidents. Crisis
intervention offers the immediate help that an individual in a crisis needs in order to reestablish equilibrium.

Secondary Trauma

People at risk for secondary traumatization are those other than the actualvictims who are affected by the traumatic event. This may include friends, family and acquaintances of the victim or people who have
simply heard about the trauma or crisis. People who help trauma and crisis victims are sometimes at risk for secondary trauma as well. This may be due to consistent exposure to human suffering and possibly
feeling responsible for the safety of the victim.

Symptoms And Reactions

People whose normal lives are disturbed by a traumatic event find that there sense of Department of Public Safety and safety is shattered. They also find that their responses to life and other people are
either greatly exaggerated or no longer exist. The following are some of the symptoms that one might encounter.

Possible Emotional Reactions

Information for Families - Traumatic Incidents and Stress

INFORMATION FOR FAMILIES - Traumatic Incidents and Stress

Family Signs and Symptoms

Because they are confronted with the reactions of their responder to traumatic incidents, members of emergency service families also are prone to exhibiting signs and symptoms.

Research done by Charles Figley, a Florida psychologist, found that famil ymembers of emergency personnelwho were exposed to traumatic incidents also began to show signs and symptoms of posttraumatic
stress. They include:

Signs and Symptoms of Critical Incident Stress which may be experienced by family members:

Physical Cognitive  Emotional
nausea slowed thinking anxiety/panic
tremors difficulty making decisions fear for responder
feeling uncoordinated confusion survival guilt
profuse sweating disorientation grief
chills depression feeling numb
diarrhea/constipation trouble concentrating sadness
dizziness memory problems irritable toward children
rapid heartbeat difficulty with names feeling lost
elevated B.P. distressing dreams feeling isolated from spouse
headaches poor attention span unappreciated by spouse
sleep disturbance difficulty calculating avoidance of spouse
decreased sexual activity problem-solving difficulty anger at spouse
easily startled memory lapses isolation

It is important to remember that these signs and symptoms, if they appear, are NORMAL. You are NORMAL, too. The only thing ABNORMAL is the event which triggered the signs and symptoms.

Remember, if any of these signs and symptoms turn up in your family, contact either your family doctor, a mentalhealth professional, or the CISM Teamwhose phone number is listed elsewhere in this handout.Where you get help doesn’t matter, only that you get help. Don’t hesitate to call, and don’t wait.

What about the kids?
Kids, especially younger kids, react to stressful situations with some of the following signs:

Information for significant others - Critical incident stress


He/she may be experiencing normal stress responses to such an event (Critical Incident Stress). Critical Incident Stress affects up to 87% of allemergency personnelexposed to a critical incident. No one in
emergency services is immune to Critical Incident Stress, regardless of past experiences or years of service. Your loved one may experience Critical Incident Stress at any time during his/her career.

Important things to remember about Critical Incident Stress:


Grief and Mourning


“You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?”(Kahlil Gibran)

Worden, J. William, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner

Grief:Emotional reactions to loss ranging from tears and sadness to guilt and rage and/or complete emotional devastation.

Mourning: The process of working through deep grief, loss, and change

FourTasks of Mourning:
1.To accept the reality of the loss
2.To experience the pain ofgrief
3.To adjust an environment inwhich the deceased is missing
4.To withdraw emotionalenergy and reinvest it in another relationship

Common Reactions
Denial                “Not me…”
Anger                 “How dare you…”
Bargaining          “If only…”
Depression          “Don’t leave me…”
Acceptance          “Hello, again…”

Signs of Grief:

Feelings Thinking Physical Behaviors
sadness disbelief hollowness in stomach sleep disturbance
anger confusion tightness in chest appetite disturbance
guilt sense of presence tightness in throat absent-minded behavior
self reproach hallucinations over-sensitivity to noise social withdrawal
anxiety preoccupation sense of depersonalization dreams of deceased
loneliness   (nothing seems real including me) searching and calling out
helplessness   breathlessness avoiding reminders of deceased
fatigue   shortness of breath sighing
shock   weakness in muscles restless over-activity
yearning   lack of energy visiting places or carrying objects that remind survivor of deceased
emancipation   dry mouth treasuring objects that belonged to deceased

Sudden Death
Important Features:
1. Leaves survivors with a sense of unreality about the loss.
2. Feelings of intense guilt and incredible rage.
3. The need to blame someone is extremely strong.
4. Frequent involvement of legal, medical and departmental authorities, as well as highmedia interest.
5. Sense ofhelplessness in survivors.
6. Unfinished business.
7. Increased need to understand why the death happened.