The goal of recovery is to return to “normalcy” and restore infrastructure as soon as possible after a crisis occurs. Focus on students and the physical building, and make sure to take as much time as needed for recovery. School staff should be trained on how to deal with the emotional impact of the crisis, as well as to assess the emotional needs of everyone involved, including staff members, students, and emergency responders. One of the major goals of recovery is to provide a caring and supportive environment.
After a crisis, look at the roles and responsibilities of school staff and others who will assist in recovery. District-level counselors may want to train the school staff to deal with the emotional impact to determine specific intervention needs. You may even want to use outside service providers. But, make sure you review the credentials of those providers and certify those who will be used during recovery.
A crisis intervention team (CIT) is made up of individuals, at either the district or school level, involved in recovery. There are many different ways to assemble and organize a CIT. For example, use a centralized CIT at the district level, which serves all schools in the district or have the district train school-specific CITs. Even when crisis intervention teams exist at individual schools, you may find it necessary to have the superintendent allocate additional resources on an as-needed basis.
The first order of business after a crisis is to get the students back to learning as soon as possible. Reopening a school after a crisis can help students and families cope with separations from one another.
Schools and districts need to keep students, families, and the media informed and must be clear about what steps have been taken to deal with student safety. Let families and other community members know what support services the school and district are providing or what other community resources are available to them. It might be good to translate letters and other forms of communication into languages other than English, depending on the composition of the communities feeding the affected school(s). Be sure to consider cultural differences when preparing these materials.
Provide an assessment of the emotional needs of staff, students, families, and responders. The assessment will determine those who might need intervention by a school counselor, social worker, school psychologist, or another mental health professional. Appropriate group interventions may work for staff and students who are experiencing less severe emotions after a crisis.
Trauma experts believe it is necessary to create a caring, warm, and trusting environment for students after a crisis. Provide ways for students to talk about what they felt and experienced during the event. Younger children may not be able to fully express their feelings verbally. Therefore, they may benefit from creative activities, including drawing, painting, or writing stories. Young adolescents benefit from group discussions where they are encouraged to talk about their feelings. You can engage older adolescents in group discussions as well and address any issues of guilt, such as, “I could have taken some action to change the outcome.”
These necessary debriefings should be for staff, responders, and others assisting in the recovery. Mental health professionals who have provided services after crises stress the importance of making sure those who are providing the “psychological first aid” are supported as well. Debriefings help staff cope with their feelings of vulnerability.
Also, remember that each person recovers from a crisis at their own pace. After a crisis, healing is a process that has its ups and downs. Depending on the traumatic event and the individual, recovery may take months, or even years.
Evaluating recovery efforts will help prepare for the next crisis. Make sure to use several methods to evaluate recovery efforts. Conduct brief interviews with emergency responders, families, teachers, students, and staff. Focus groups may also be helpful to get important information about recovery efforts. Here are a few questions to ask:
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