June 24, 2022
At SPRC, we believe in the power of words to help effect positive change, in people and the world around us. But after recent incidents of mass violence, we’ve struggled with the limitations of language to convey what many of us have at times felt—grief, anger, even despair—and to communicate a helpful vision for a way forward.
Faced with the widespread inequities that put some racial and ethnic groups at higher risk of experiencing gun violence and other forms of trauma, it would be understandable if we as helping professionals felt some discouragement. Faced with the systemic injustices that leave many children unsafe in their neighborhoods and schools, it would be understandable if we questioned whether we could make a meaningful difference in the lives of young people.
At such moments of doubt or depletion, let us find sustenance in each other, let us lean on the supports of our communities, let us see hope in the progress we have made, let us seek renewal in our collective mission to alleviate suffering and save lives, let us remember that our work matters, and we are not alone in our efforts.
As a field, we have so much to offer those who are struggling in the aftermath of violence—tools and resources for preventing suicide, addressing trauma, and promoting mental health among youth, families, school staff, first responders, and those experiencing disproportionate adversity. We also know many evidence-based approaches that can help make communities places of greater safety and belonging for all their members.
But as clinical and public health professionals, we’re also keenly aware of the circumstantial factors affecting the health and well-being of the individuals, families, and populations we work with, many of which are outside of our control. We acknowledge that living in a safe environment is better than having tools to cope with danger. We recognize that our skills and resources may help to heal, but that our country must strive to eliminate the disparities causing harm in the first place.
Addressing the pervasive issues that put some people more at risk for adversity, illness, and death is a collective marathon, not a solo sprint. And to run that distance, we need to take care of ourselves and each other. At SPRC, we retain our belief in and commitment to the effective potential of words and actions to help prevent suicide but appreciate the importance of taking time for quiet and rest to sustain us and our efforts.
As we head into the summer months, we encourage you to incorporate recovery in your personal and professional lives. Below are some resources that may be helpful for you and those you work with:
- Check out a self-care toolkit for social workers, resources for provider well-being, and coping tips for health care professionals and emergency responders.
- Find resources to help children cope with mass violence, and for school communities dealing with crisis or loss, as well as crisis services for anyone who has experienced a natural or human-caused disaster.
- Use a toolkit to help organizations prevent vicarious trauma, and consult the SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center to help territories, states, tribes, and communities prepare to address behavioral health needs after a disaster.
Beverly W. Funderburk, PhD
Professor of Research
SPRC Senior Advisor
Center on Child Abuse and Neglect
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center