For a brief moment, the center of the universe was Boston, MA. The explosions on April 15th 2013 during the Boston Marathon were not only felt in the streets of this great city, they echoed the atrocities happening around the world and throughout history when the senseless murder of innocent people occurred.
On first hearing about the bombing, I wept. During the first images of the blast, I watched a runner fall to the ground while holding his knee. At that moment, I thought about how just that one man tumbling to the ground would cause reverberations throughout his world and that of the family and friends whom he loves and who love him. Multiply that by all of the participants of the Boston Marathon, the patriots of Boston who came out on that fine spring day to enjoy this iconic event and those of us who later became eyewitnesses to this disaster. Sheer shock and horror prevailed. The totality of peoples’ lives changed in a moment. Trauma filled the air.
The aftermaths of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, hurricanes, avalanches, drought, famine, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods, etc. are hard enough to manage. Just this week, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit south China’s Sichuan Province killing at least 100 people with more than 2000 injured; while in West, Texas a fertilizer plant exploded killing 14 firefighters and injuring more than 200 others. The survivors of these disasters will join so many others who had to recreate their lives and grieve lost family members and friends. Mental health initiatives need to be a vital part of their recovery.
Man-made disasters create another deeper level of disturbance and suffering. Here, we struggle with the knowledge that a fellow human being/s executed this terrible, senseless act. And, whether it is in Boston, Madrid, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Gaza, Nigeria, South Africa, Mexico, etc., we are all impacted. It is the reason I decided to edit a book called, Implementing EMDR Early Mental Health Interventions for Man-Made and Natural Disasters: Models, Scripted Protocols and Summary Sheets; a book that addresses an often neglected subject -early mental health response to disasters. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy that assists clients in reprocessing events in their lives that have impeded them from living fully. Early EMDR Intervention includes variations on the original EMDR methodology to account for the fact that memory consolidation occurs over time. Different protocols educate EMDR-trained therapists on how to address patients immediately after a critical event in hospitals, in the field and/or on-site; and later, with individuals and/or groups. Other chapters address how to work and understand the culture and needs of firefighters, emergency medical service professions, police, military and those working underground. The last section is dedicated to making sure that our mental health responders know how to take care of themselves and that those who design early mental health responses plan for clinician self-care as well. In fact, it is considered so important that the Green Cross Academy of Traumatology (GCAT) has written its own Guidelines for Self-Care.
In the days that follow this terrible event, there will be media coverage and citizens reaching out to those who were impacted. These victims will be interviewed and on center stage. However, when the lights of the media grow dim, the survivors will deal with the impact of this horror on their daily lives: the friends and/or family they have lost, the injuries they suffered and may be ongoing and the loss of their world as they knew it. Life will no longer be the same and we have to remember that these injuries take time to heal and to extend our help over whatever time is needed.
Marilyn Luber, PhD, has been in private practice in Philadelphia since 1987. For over 15 years she has trained facilitators nationally and internationally in EMDR, Levels I & II. She is also a consultant to EMDR-Germany and EMDR-Israel, and coordinates the Luber Seminar Series, specializing in EMDR. She has received numerous awards including the Francine Shapiro EMDR International Association Award (2005), the Outstanding Contribution EMDRIA Award (2003), and the EMDR HAP Humanitarian Services Award (1987). Dr. Luber is a member of APA, ISTSS, ISSD, and the Silvan Tomkins Institute. She is the author of EMDR Scripted Protocols: Basics and Special Situations, EMDR Scripted Protocols: Special Populations, two CD-ROMS, and a forthcoming book on anxiety, depression and medical-related issues