MHAFC Offers Support, Tips for Parents, in Response to Shootings at Sandy Hook

Columbus, OH (Dec. 17, 2012) – Mental Health America of Franklin County (MHAFC) stands united with our fellow Americans today as we grieve the incomprehensible loss of those tragically killed on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. Traumatic events like this impact us all, and our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with the families who are now facing the unthinkable.

For the weeks and months that follow, conversations about access to mental health services, debate about gun control and questions about how to ensure our schools are safe will be vital to moving forward. But first, each of us is wrestling with our own grief, and those with children may be struggling with how to discuss these and similar events with their children. MHAFC offers its support for parents and other caregivers who are helping children to process their response.

First, it is important to remember that children sense the anxiety and tension in adults around them. And, like adults, children experience the same feelings of helplessness and lack of control that events like this can bring about. Unlike adults, however, children have little experience to help them place their feelings and the event itself into perspective.

Each child responds differently, depending on his or her understanding and maturity, but an event like this can create a great deal of anxiety in children of all ages because they will interpret the disaster as a personal danger to themselves and those they care about. Whatever the child’s age or proximity to the trauma itself, it is important that parents and other caregivers be open about the consequences for their own family, and that the children be encouraged to talk about it.

Mental Health America of Franklin County has developed the following tips to help:

• Address your own emotions and try to remain calm.

• Explain the situation, sticking to the facts about the incident.
• Find ways to protect children from harm or further exposure to trauma, including limiting children’s access to television news and other media following the event.
• Observe the emotional state of each child in your care. Attend to the immediate needs of those in acute distress or intense grief.
• Reassure children that it is okay to be upset or angry.
• Comfort and reassure children often.
• Be honest and willing to listen to their concerns.
• Refrain from criticizing any regressive behavior.
• Respond to concerns in a manner appropriate to the child’s age and development.
• Encourage expression and therapeutic art or play activities.
• Take care of yourself so you can care for your children.
• Access appropriate and available school, medical and/or other community resources, including MHAFC, when needed.

If you or someone you love needs help, it is okay to ask. Contact MHAFC at 614-221-1441 or www.mhafc.org.

Founded in 1956, Mental Health America of Franklin County is dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental disorders and raising awareness and understanding of mental health issues through advocacy, education and support services in our community.

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Contact information:

Laura Moskow Sigal, Executive Director
Lmsigal@mhafc.org
614-221-1441 x101 (o)
614-975-9612 (c)

Jen Patterson, Development & Marketing Director
jpatterson@mhafc.org
614-221-1441 x105 (o)