Faculty and Staff Resources Related to Virginia Tech Tragedy

Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

The Virginia Tech shooting tragedy is obviously deeply disturbing to us all. As we all respond personally to this horrific news, questions may also arise about how we can best support the students. Following are some questions you may be considering and some thoughts on the subject. Please feel free to call the Counseling Center if you would like to discuss any of issues further.

Q) How affected are our students likely to be by this tragedy?

A) Most students, like most of us, will have initial shock, disbelief, and a feeling of horror and sadness. The students' response will probably be variable, depending on a variety of factors. Those who are likely to be even more distressed may have relationships with those at Virginia Tech, are being reminded of previous traumatic situations in their own lives, have had recent and/or extensive losses, and/or were already feeling overly stressed and emotionally vulnerable.

Q) How do I tell if a student is in need of additional assistance? And what do I say?

A) If you are aware of some of the factors above, you may want to acknowledge to the student that you realize this may be especially hard, and ask how he or she is doing. Further if students seem to have more of a need than most students to speak about the situation, absolutely refuse to talk about it, appear highly upset, or make comments in class or in their written work that concern you, seem "addicted" to the news, report trouble eating or sleeping, they may be in need of some additional support. Remind them that counseling services are free, a resource they should consider taking advantage of, even on a one-time basis. They can walk in to the Counseling Center or make an appointment by calling (310) 506-4210. Feel free to remind all students of this service by making a general announcement in your class.

Q) Could such a tragedy happen here? How would I know for sure if a student would become homicidal or suicidal? If I'm worried about someone, what should I do?

A) Making such future predictions perfectly is impossible, even for the most trained forensic psychologists. There are, however, numerous signs that faculty and staff can watch for to identify students at risk. Certainly, most will not be dangerous, but students who exhibit these signs could certainly be in need of support and possible assessment.

---Feelings of hopelessness, believing there are no options, no way out
---Patterns of impulsivity or erratic behaviors
---Being overwhelmed with stressors
---Evidence of emotional vulnerability
---Social withdrawal and disconnection
---Threats or veiled threats of harm of self or others
If you are concerned about a student, please call the Counseling Center (X4210) to discuss the matter, or refer the situation to the Dean of Students Office so that the Student of Concern Committee can meet to determine a response.

Q) What resources are available to students?

A) In addition to providing individual counseling services mentioned above, the Counseling Center will be leading a discussion group, open to all students tonight, Wednesday April 18, at 7pm upstairs at the HAWC. Please remind students of this event. The American Psychological Association has provided a tip sheet to for students that you may wish to distribute. http://www.apahelpcenter.org/articles/article.php?id=151

Q) Should I talk about this in class? And if so, how?

A) This is certainly up to you. Understandably, in these final days of the semester, you probably feel you have class material you must cover and limited time to spare. You may choose to simply make some brief comments about knowing this situation is especially hard for some students and reminding them of resources, including time with you outside of class, the Chaplain, Housing and Residence Life and Community Living staff, and the Counseling Center. If you would like to have a more extended discussion in your class, in addition to discussing the basic facts and reaction, or those that fit your class topic specifically, consider questions such as the following: How does hearing about a tragedy of this magnitude affect us? Is our world a relatively safe place or a dangerous place? How do we resist profiling or become xenophobic after an incident? What is the effect of the media? Is it helpful or not in preventing future situations? How can we, as a campus community support each other?

Thank you for your concern for students, and please, let us know how we may be of assistance.


Connie Horton, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Director, Counseling Center