The abduction, assault and murder of Melissa Jenkins – a popular teacher at St. Johnsbury Academy – has left the community searching for answers, reports The Caledonian-Record in the article, “The Path To Normalcy.”
Many people have been in both shock and disbelief, a feeling that things like this aren’t supposed to happen here.
Dr. Richard Shadick, director of the counseling center and an adjunct professor of psychology at Pace University in New York City, offered his insight into the tragedy that has rocked St. Johnsbury and neighboring towns this week in an interview with Reporter/Columnist Amy Ash Nixon.
“How to help the community heal is the question. It really helps for the local government to have a clear plan in mind about the situation or the traumatic event that occurred. We saw a great example of that with 9/11 in New York City with the mayor providing information that was clear and accurate,” said Dr. Shadick. “People tend to heal faster from traumatic events when they know what is going on.”
“Information about trauma should be disseminated to the community. It’s a horrific situation, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to submit to a post-traumatic stress disorder, or get depressed or anxious,” he said Friday afternoon. “Most people are resilient when it comes to circumstances like this. So to get information out about the fact that people are resilient and they can take certain steps to heal from this trauma and not become incapacitated by it,” said Dr. Shadick.
On hearing the signs of community support, about the pink balloons and ribbons tied everywhere, Dr. Shadick said, “that can be very healing.”
“Providing information about what is the process for healing is helpful, too. And to provide guidance when healing isn’t going right,” he said. “If someone is having great difficulty eating or sleeping for weeks and weeks on end, if they are feeling depressed or suicidal, these are all signs that help from a mental health professional is indicated.”
“There are different groups of people that may need different things. Children may need to have a different type of intervention, if you will, than adults, and people who knew the victim may need more support, and an opportunity to grieve differently than the rest of the community,” said Dr. Shadick. “Memorials are helpful. Scholarship funds, those kinds of things, fundraising for the family and many people respond very positively to taking an active role in helping the victims, and that can be very healing.