After shots rang through Baton Rouge and wall-to-wall media coverage displayed protests, crime scenes and funerals, Capital Area Human Services is hosting a number of free sessions starting Wednesday on processing trauma.
Social workers from Capital Area Human Services say people directly connected to the killings of three law enforcement officers July 17 and those who observed the tragedy from afar might have pronounced emotional reactions. Having the opportunity to talk about tragedy and expressing the thoughts that may arise from it is one of the most constructive steps in moving forward.
"When you have unusual events and you have an unusual reaction to those events, that's normal," said Program Manager John Nosacka, a licensed clinical social worker.
In Baton Rouge Police Department’s sprawling 3rd District, the days and nights grew long in …
One session will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and is specifically geared toward law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, social workers, teachers, mental health counselors, chaplains and ministers. Two trauma specialists from the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Medicine -- pediatric mental health division head Joy Osofsky and psychiatry department chairman Howard Osofsky -- will make a presentation on the aftermath of trauma and how to help others process it.
Other sessions open to the public will be held at two times on two dates. Sessions on internal reactions to the Baton Rouge shootings and on the emotional impacts of the events will be held from noon to 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Aug. 2 and Aug. 9.
All sessions will be held at Capital Area Human Services, 4615 Government St., Room 200, Building 2.
Nosacka said conversation alone can sometimes be enough to help people move through the stages of grief. He said people should consider talking to a professional social worker if their unusual reactions to grief persist for extended periods of time, or if they do not feel comfortable opening up to family members or friends.
"Two people may experience the same event but have different reactions," said Clinical Services Director Stephen Aguillard, licensed clinical social worker.
Aguillard and Nosacka said a number of factors could play into how two people experience grief differently. Some are more sensitive than others, some have more coping mechanisms and some have traumatic events from their past that new tragedies will trigger.
Nosacka said those who are more in-touch with processing emotions may have an easier time of processing them after a traumatic event.
He drew a comparison to students who ace high school because of their intelligence but then struggle in college because they never learned study skills, saying that emotional coping mechanisms that adults have used their whole lives may no longer be enough once they reach new stages of adulthood.
Adults should also strive for balance, to turn off and take a break from the news, to take care of oneself, to help others and to remember grief is a long process, the social workers said. It is especially important to keep young children away from prolonged news coverage of traumatic events because children cannot process them as much or as well as adults. People should answer children's questions based on how well a child can understand the events, the social workers said, adding that it helps to offer children outlets to express their feelings like art, storytelling and pretend play.
For those trying to help friends and family navigate grief, Aguillard and Nosacka said, no magic words or phrases exist. But, people should avoid simple but rarely helpful platitudes like "things always work out for the best." Instead, it's important to acknowledge the loss, listen, and offer specific ways to help or be there for their friends instead of telling people to call if they need anything.