As the public struggles to make sense of a senseless tragedy, media outlets have called upon Richard Shadick, Ph.D., director of the counseling center at Pace’s downtown campus, for perspective. (Left: A woman comforts a young girl Friday during a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn. / Andrew Gombert/AP)
As the public struggles to make sense of the senseless tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, media outlets have called upon Richard Shadick, Ph.D., director of the counseling center at Pace’s downtown campus, for the psychological perspective.
About the killer’s state of mind from the Washington Times:
“Human behavior is very complex. … What we can say with confidence is that this individual was suicidal,” said Richard Shadick, director of a counseling center and a psychology professor at New York’s Pace University. “Individuals who are suicidal, there is only a very small subset of those who are violent. We’re looking at a very rare phenomena here that we don’t know a lot about.”
About talking to children about tragedy and fear from The Journal News:
Parents should continue to monitor their children for signs that they are having difficulty coping with news of the shooting, especially children who have previously been exposed to violence, said Richard Shadick, director of the counseling center at Pace University’s downtown Manhattan campus. He said that parents should consider having their children spend less time with electronic media, such as television and video games, and find places of calm and quiet to talk.
“Of course, consider a child’s age and development,” Shadick said. “But approach things in a factual way that doesn’t sensationalize the scenario. If parents feel too sad themselves, they should wait a bit.”
About the suicidal killer from College Magazine:
Clinical psychologist and Pace University psychology professor Richard Shadick, Ph.D., said he believes this is a case of a suicidal person with psychological problems.
“Anyone who takes lives in this way is clearly suffering from a mental illness of some kind,” he said. “It’s deeply tragic and sad. The individual who most likely is mentally ill was unable to get the help and support he needed to take care of his problems.”
Shadick made sure to note that we should not take this a condemnation of everyone with mental instabilities.
“It’s important for people to understand that this individual does not represent all individuals who suffer from mental illness,” he said. “We should stay away from generalizations about who this person was until we get more information.”
College Magazine’s thoughts and prayers go out to the children, parents, teachers, and all those affected by this tragedy. At a time like this, what we need most is to just be with loved ones.
“Individuals should try very hard to take care of those around them because it’s a very upsetting situation that evokes a lot of hopelessness and helplessness,” said Shadick. “This is a very good time to reach out to friends and family.”
About helping children deal with tragedy and trauma from The Educated Reporter:
“This is a teachable moment: It’s one of the unfortunate realities of life,” Richard Shadick, a clinical psychologist and professor at Pace University in New York said of the Friday morning shooting that left 27 dead —including 20 children—at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.“Sometimes there are tragic circumstances that happen in the safest and most unexpected places.”
Across the country, education reporters are assembling reaction stories – localized articles on the safety practices of their local campuses, comments from the district’s police chief, and reaction from school staff and parents about their own fears and concerns. There will be questions about what, if anything, could have been done to prevent this senseless, unfathomable tragedy. Some of the toughest conversations – many of which will be taking place in schools across the country — are still to come.
For adults – parents, teachers, and school administrators – it’s important to consider a child’s developmental age when dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event, Shadick said.
“How much they can handle is the first thing,” Shadick told me. “There’s less of a need to provide information to a kindergartener than to someone in seventh grade where access to the media is much greater.”
But it’s also important that there be two-way communication – “A child should be allowed to talk about their concerns, and their questions should be answered,” Shadick said.
With younger children, the central message should be that they are safe, that what happened is extremely unusual, and that trustworthy adults are there to protect them, according to Shadick. The focus should be on instilling a sense of security and normalcy.
At the same time, adults – including teachers, coaches, and school administrators – need to be monitoring how children are processing the information. Kids who have experienced violence at home, or have “an excessive diet of media violence” should be monitored more closely to see if they are expressing anger or anxiety,” Shadick said.