CHARDON, Ohio - The shock of dealing with a school shooting is something most school districts will never have to address.
Chardon Local Schools were not so lucky on Feb. 27, but the community rallied around Chardon High School students. Recent suicide attempts by students have now tested that resiliency.
Chardon school superintendent Joseph Bergant talked to NewsChannel5 about the dark time his district was dealt in February. He said he wants to get the word out that trauma of one act of violence can trigger excessive depression in anyone susceptible, and to watch out for the signs in friends and relatives.
"It's a strain on our children, our teachers, importantly our teachers, and our community as a whole. Anytime there is a horrific act of violence such as back on February 27th, it brings out different emotions and brings up different things that people have experienced in their past life to the degree that we're really not quite sure," Bergant said.
"We had a great plan for any kind of a disaster. Where we came up a little short was: What do you do after the disaster, and helping to chart a map, or a path, so to speak. We've done a lot of work since last February in preparing our staff to receive kids back, how to deal with situations that may come up in the classroom, or in the community," Bergant said.
"One thing we were struggling with was we had six children who attempted to commit suicide since May, until about this time of the school year. Fortunately for all of us, they didn't succeed," Bergant said.
That prompted the district to add more support group opportunities and counseling classes during already required English classes, getting to the most students possible.
Grief and bereavement counseling has been available to Chardon families at the school district since the first day of the tragedy. Diane Snyder Cowan, director of the Elisabeth Severence Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve, oversees both hospice and community bereavement programs. She said Chardon residents' trip back to normalcy will be a slow one for many.
"Those big feelings don't just go away after so many months. They need to learn how to manage these big feelings. Some of it might be sadness, some of it might be depression, could be clinical depression, so if there are those type of feelings, they need to talk about that. The school needs to talk about the kids, the parents need to talk to the kids, and they need to get help as appropriate for kids," Cowan said.
Some doctors site studies that copycat reactions are common among young adults who read, see, or hear, stories of other's trauma.
Clinical Health Psychologist Lori Stevic-Rust said she feels there is a need for media sensitivity while covering suicide attempts or tragedies involving other children. A group of children in large numbers trying to attempt suicide concerns her.
"When stories like this that come on, when we hear about children doing this in a pack, you know, seven attempts within six people, it becomes that sense of a copycat. It is a lot of negative energy, negative press, that can built around that story. So it's really important that we take a look at that and we say to ourselves, what message to we need to convey here and get rid of the other message," said Stevic-Rust.
For more information on Hospice of the Western Reserve's grief and bereavement programs go to: www.hospicewr.org/bereavement-center-blog
Or for Stevic-Rust @ Assoc. LLC, Healthcare Consultants go to: www.doctorlori.net