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Past Activity Spotlight - April–June 2020

Disaster Mental Health and Post-Crisis Counseling Support Following Mass Violence

Requester/Organization Supported: City of Virginia Beach, Department of Human Services

Type & Dates: Two 6-hour trainings | September 27 and October 4, 2019

Description: As a result of the May 31, 2019, shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the city of Virginia Beach requested training for local mental health providers on effective strategies for mass violence intervention. The trainings included an overview of mass violence and disaster mental health; the differences in concepts and interventions relative to the treatment of other potential traumas; strategies, such as Psychological First Aid; lessons learned from the Virginia Tech mass shooting; resilience and post-traumatic growth; and self-care for providers. Approximately 300 mental health providers representing the local community, government programs, and providers in private practice attended the two trainings.

Implementation: The consultants worked with staff from the Virginia Beach Community Services Board, Virginia Beach Department of Human Services to create the training curriculum. The consultants drew on their expertise in disaster mental health and responding to mass violence incidents, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, shootings at Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, and Orlando, and many more, to develop the curriculum. The two trainings were promoted to local mental health providers who received CEUs for attending the trainings.

Results: Participants learned about framing mass violence treatment interventions as a long-term effort and the benefit of Psychological First Aid for the overall community. Eighty percent of the participants indicated they would share the information with their colleagues. Some participants said they would develop a new manual for disaster practitioners in their area, and they would introduce Psychological First Aid to their agency. The training resulted in an increased number of mental health providers who are better equipped with the unique skill set needed to work with individuals after a mass violence incident.