The Caledonian-Record: “The Path To Normalcy”

A young teacher is murdered by a couple pretending to need help. Her 2-year-old child is left in the car unharmed. Amy Ash Nixon, a reporter from the local St. Johnsbury, Vt newspaper, The Caledonian-Record, turns to Pace’s Dr. Richard Shadick to ask how their community can recover from a horrifying violent crime like this.

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.

Forbes: “The Five Stages Of Public Grieving”

In the wake of a national tragedy like the Tucson shooting last week, an entire country mourns.

“When there is a national tragedy, the emotions of dealing with it can often set off or remind people of personal tragedies, which can lead to depression,” says Richard Shadick, Ph.D., director of Pace University’s Counseling Center in New York City. “Public mourning of a national event can help people to deal with the personal feelings, but can also bring depressive emotions to the surface.”

Grieving through a national tragedy can be incredibly complex. Experts say the public deals with survivor’s guilt immediately following a trauma, and these feelings can be exacerbated by 24-7 news coverage. In the aftermath of the violent attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., which left six people dead, including a 9-year-old girl, the country is mourning collectively as we try to pick up the pieces.

Here’s how to work your way through the Five Stages of Grief — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.