Riverside Trauma Center Newsletter
Spring 2013
In This Issue
Our 3rd Annual Conference
Response to Boston Marathon Bombings
Our Director Speaks at
AAS Annual Conference
Riverside Trauma Center Training
Suicide Rate Up Among
Middle-Aged U.S. Adults
Dear Friend, 


We have recently been through a very turbulent time. The Boston Marathon bombings and tragic events that followed emotionally affected so many of us. Riverside Trauma Center has been working nonstop to give people who were deeply impacted by these tragedies an opportunity to discuss what happened, talk about their reactions to the events, and help them identify healthy coping strategies they can use to move forward. The article "Response to the Boston Marathon Bombings" will bring you up to speed on our efforts.


As we look to the future, we continue to focus on the importance of resilience and self-care the theme that we have chosen for Riverside Trauma Center's 3rd Annual Conference. When life challenges us, the capability to take care of ourselves and others, and the ability to be resilient are key elements that help us come through difficult times healthy and strong. Gaining even more knowledge about these skills will give us the tools to empower people to survive and even thrive no matter what comes their way.


Best wishes for a happy, healthy summer!


Larry Berkowitz, EdD

Director, Riverside Trauma Center

Riverside Trauma Center's 3rd Annual Conference 

Friday, October 4, 2013
8:30 am-4pm
Crown Plaza Natick, MA
1360 Worcester Str., Natick (Rte. 9)

Our upcoming annual conference, which is scheduled for October 4 of this year, will  focus on the themes of resilience and self-care, and look at more concrete skills that people can use to build resilience in themselves, their clients, their families, and their communities. The keynote speaker will be Donald Meichenbaum, PhD, author of Roadmap to Resilience: A Guide for Military, Trauma Victims and Their Families. Dr. Meichenbaum, one of the founders of cognitive behavioral therapy, is an expert both in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and intervention with people who are in suicidal crisis; a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada; and currently serves as Research Director of the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention located in Miami, Florida. More details about the conference will be provided shortly.


"Dr. Meichenbaum is a legend in the mental health field. He also happens to be a dynamic presenter. We feel very lucky to have him as our keynote speaker this year," said Jim McCauley, LICSW, Associate Director, Riverside Trauma Center.


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Response to the Boston Marathon Bombings      


Within hours of the April 15th Boston Marathon   

bombings,  Riverside Trauma Center  was on-site at the Mayor's Assistance Center in the Back Bay. Alongside responders from the City of Boston Public Health Commission, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army, those early hours were spent providing survivors with Psychological First Aid: helping runners locate their belongings, feeding victims and first responders, and arranging shelter and transportation for stranded runners.


Over the course of the next three weeks 34 trained responders from Riverside Trauma Center provided more than 470 hours of practical assistance and individual and group counseling to more than 660 eyewitnesses, runners, race volunteers, first responders, business owners, employees, and residents of Boylston Street. Many of the survivors were struggling with their intense reactions to this traumatic event: they reported difficulty sleeping and eating as well as issues with depression and anxiety. They were surprised and overwhelmed by their hypervigilance, trouble concentrating, changes in behavior, and fear such an event might happen again.


Several of our responders spent most of the first two weeks at the various Mayor's Assistance Centers: the Castle, the Hynes Convention Center, and the Boston Public Library. Of the many types of assistance our team provided, one of the most compelling was accompanying business owners and residents the first time they were allowed to return to their addresses in the bombing area eight days after the tragedy. It was an intensely emotional experience for most of these survivors. Although most of Boylston Street had been cleaned up, many of the businesses had been left exactly as they were during the chaotic evacuation. Many of these business people and residents were eyewitnesses to the injury and devastation and now had to begin the arduous task of cleaning up and getting the proper health department inspections before they could re-open.


Team member Courtney Breen, MS, talks about the experience of helping people return to their apartments: "One resident arrived for her appointment with city officials two hours early. She noted that since the bombings, she had been hypervigilant about everything and was worried this wasn't normal. As we talked, her facial expression shifted from stressed and anxious to calm and relaxed. She was grateful for suggestions about breathing techniques and how to improve her sleep. Without exception these individuals reacted with gratitude and relief to know their strong reactions the past week were normal and expected given all they had experienced."


Team members also responded to several Boylston area businesses for more in-depth discussions about the experience of employees who were eyewitnesses to the bombings. In several cases, employees went out of their way to help people affected by the devastation: walking them to a safe location, making their landlines available so they could call loved ones, and sheltering and feeding them until they were able to safely evacuate.


The impact of this man-made disaster reverberated throughout the Greater Boston area. Riverside Trauma Center team members provided services in several area communities directly impacted: Cambridge, Watertown, Newton, and Framingham. We also offered clinical support for community vigils and forums in Dorchester, Cambridge, and Watertown. The total of people attending these various community gatherings exceeded 3,500.


Although our efforts to respond left us exhausted and humbled, all of our team members felt honored and appreciated by the people they helped. Staff member Sarah Gaer, MA, summed it up well: "...the one reaction I saw firsthand in each response was gratitude. I saw neighbors hugging who had not known each other's name just a week earlier. I saw teenagers (can you imagine?) being grateful to their parents. I saw husbands and wives remembering just how much they loved each other. I saw gratitude for local businesses, police, and the entire city."  


As the response started to wind down in week three, the Massachusetts Departments of Mental Health and Public Health asked Riverside Trauma Center to establish and operate a "Marathon Hotline" for anyone outside of Boston who was still experiencing some degree of distress. The phone line is available Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. A trained counselor will answer the phone and provide telephone support, individual or group counseling, or a referral to a more appropriate service or location. The hotline number is 855-279-0632.


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American Association of Suicidology Annual Conference

Larry AASLarry Berkowitz, EdD, Director of Riverside Trauma Center, was honored to be the keynote speaker at the American Association of Suicidology / American Foundation on Suicide Prevention 25th Healing Conference held in conjunction with the 46th American Association of Suicidology Annual Conference in Austin, TX this past April. In his presentation, "Creating Meaning from Sorrow: Pathways to Healing from Suicide Loss," he addressed both personal and professional perspectives on the needs of those bereaved by suicide. As a member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention's task force on the needs of suicide survivors, he provided highlights from the ongoing work and recommendations of the task force.


He spoke with great understanding and empathy around the challenges that survivors of suicide face in the days immediately following the loss of a loved one by suicide and even years later. Larry spoke on the issues of stigma and shame, along with the depths of the sorrow. He offered survivors validation, empathy, and hope in their healing process along with the academic understanding of the grief after a suicide.


"It was a very proud moment for me and for Riverside Trauma Center, to have Larry be honored to speak at the most distinguished suicide prevention conference in the nation," said Waheeda Saif, LMHC, Riverside Trauma Center's Program Coordinator. "He deservedly received a standing ovation, with many people commenting on how moved they were by his words that provided concrete hope for survivors of suicide."


Riverside Trauma Center Training


Best Practices in Suicide Assessment and Intervention   

Tuesday, June 18, 9 am-4 pm

Dedham, MA


This full-day training is designed to increase knowledge and improve the skills and confidence of clinicians and others who find themselves identifying high-risk youth and adults, and planning for their care. Participants will learn the scope of the problem, review current information on suicide risk factors, and examine personal reactions to dealing with suicidal behaviors. Best practices in risk assessment and crisis intervention will be presented, and attendees will learn techniques for eliciting suicidal ideation. CEUs are pending for Social Workers, LMHCs, LMFTs, and Nurses. CE is available for Psychologists. To register, please contact callen@riversidecc.org.


Suicide Rate Up Among Middle-Aged U.S. Adults

Suicide rates among Americans 35 to 64 years old rose 28% over the last decade according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.* The rate went from 13.7 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 people in 2010. In regard to race/ethnicity, the greatest increase was seen among whites and Native Americans. Suicide rates went up across all states, whether they had relatively high, average, or low suicide base rates.


Possible factors that contribute to the increase include the recent economic downturn, a rise in intentional overdoses associated with the increased availability of prescription opioids, and a "cohort effect" particular to baby boomers who had high suicide rates during their teen years. Further research is needed to understand the cause for this rise in suicides.


These statistics highlight the need for suicide prevention efforts that address the issues faced by middle-aged adults. Since the rate of suicide in the middle-age population is significantly higher for men than women, Riverside Trauma Center's Suicide Prevention Specialist, Sarah Gaer, MA, focuses her work on suicide prevention for middle-aged men. She is currently training staff at various fire and police stations in Massachusetts to recognize the warning signs, clues, and suicidal communications of people in trouble so those first responders can act vigorously to prevent a possible tragedy.



*"Suicide Among Adults Aged 35-64 Years - United States, 1999-2000," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 3, 2013, 72(17); 321-325. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  


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Please Let Us Know What You Think

If you would like to share some comments about our newsletter or provide us with some ideas for articles that you would like to see, please send an email to tcenter@riversidecc.org. We would love to hear from you.





Riverside Trauma Center is a service of Riverside Community Care, a non-profit organization. Services are primarily funded through donations and contracts from the Massachusetts Departments of Mental Health and Public Health. All contributions are welcome and appreciated.


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