Riverside Trauma Center Newsletter
Fall 2013
In This Issue
Our 3rd Annual Conference
Get Involved in
Suicide Prevention
Does Coffee Reduce the
Risk of Suicide?
Training Firefighters in
Suicide Prevention
Guidelines on Mental Health Care After Trauma
ISTSS Annual Meeting
Dear Friend, 


We are very excited about our fall conference "Resilience Through the Lifespan" and our speakers Dr. Donald Meichenbaum, an icon in American Psychology, and Steve Gross, whose creative work with traumatized and vulnerable children in the Greater Boston area and beyond is legendary. There is a lot of information to share about this topic, and I look forward to some lively discussions.


I also want to remind everyone that National Suicide Prevention Week starts on September 8. A person dies by suicide every 13.7 minutes, claiming more than 38,000 lives each year. It is a public health issue that needs everyone's help. Below we give you some ideas about how to get involved in suicide prevention.


This newsletter also shares with you our recent efforts to train firefighters in suicide prevention. As first responders, they are frequently in a prime position to help people who are at risk for suicide or self-harm. We have received a lot of positive feedback about these trainings, and we look forward to doing more of them.


Best wishes for a beautiful fall season.

Larry Berkowitz, EdD

Director, Riverside Trauma Center

Riverside Trauma Center's 3rd Annual Conference 

Resilience Through the Lifespan:  
Maximizing Personal Strength in the Face of Trauma 


Cosponsored by the Massachusetts Department of 
Public Health's Suicide Prevention Program 
Deadline to register is September 20, 2013 

Friday, October 4, 2013
8:30 am-4 pm (Registration starts at 8 am)
Crowne Plaza Natick, MA
1360 Worcester Street, Natick (Rte. 9)

When faced with a traumatic event, some people display an incredible capacity for resilience. How can we strengthen this capacity in other people so they can be more resilient before, during, and after a traumatic event? This conference will focus on the themes of resilience and self-care, and look at concrete skills that people can use to build resilience in themselves, their clients, their families, and their communities.


Keynote Address by Donald Meichenbaum, PhD:
"The Journey from Trauma to Resilience: Specific Ways to Bolster Resilience"   


Following exposure to traumatizing and victimizing experiences, some 75 % of  individuals will evidence some level of resilience, while 25% will evidence some form of persistent chronic psychiatric difficulties such as PTSD and Substance Abuse Disorders. In this presentation, Dr. Meichenbaum will consider what distinguishes these two groups from a Constructive Narrative perspective and the implications for assessment and treatment decision-making. He will discuss specific ways to bolster a client's resilience and improve treatment outcomes.


Donald Meichenbaum, PhD, is Distinguished Professor Emeritus fromDr. Meichenbaum the University of Waterloo in Ontario from which he took early retirement 17 years ago to become Research Director of the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention in Miami. (Papers by Dr. Meichenbaum are available at www.melissainstitute.org  in the Author Index.) He is one of the founders of Cognitive behavior therapy and in a survey of clinicians reported in American Psychologist, he was voted "one of the 10 most influential psychotherapists of the 20th century." He has presented in all 50 U.S. states and internationally. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Clinical Division of the American Psychological Association. His most recent book is Roadmap to Resilience: A Guide for Military, Trauma Victims and Their Families (www.roadmaptoresilience.org).


Additional Presentations:

"Is It In You? The Role of Playfulness in Healing and Strengthening
Children Deeply Impacted by Trauma"
Steve Gross, MSW, Chief Playmaker at  Life is good Playmakers, a nonprofit organization that uses play to strengthen and heal children whose lives have been deeply impacted by trauma.   



"Making Meaning from Chaos: Lessons Learned from   

the Boston Marathon Bombings and Aftermath" 


Larry Berkowitz, EdD, Co-founder/Director, and Waheeda Saif, LMHC,  Program Coordinator from Riverside Trauma Center.

Cost: Registration deadline is 9/20/13. Registration cost is $139 per person or $125 per person for groups of 4 or more. $75 per person for Riverside Community Care employees. Lunch will be provided. 


Continuing Education: This training is approved for 6.25 hours of continuing education for LMFTs. Applications for continuing education credits (6.25 hours) for Social Workers, LMHCs, and Nurses have been submitted. Please contact Jenny Huynh (jhuynh@riversidecc.org) for the status of the CE accreditation. Riverside Community Care is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor education for Psychologists. Riverside Community Care maintains responsibility for this program and its content.  

Complete the registration online by filling in the appropriate information and paying by credit card or check or, if you prefer, visit
www.riversidetraumacenter.org to print out and complete a hard copy of the registration form. If you prefer to pay by check, please make the check payable to "Riverside Community Care" and send it to: Jenny Huynh, Riverside Trauma Center, 255 Highland Ave., Needham, MA 02494. Registration deadline is September 20.   

Please share this information with others who are interested in these topics.     


 Back to top 

Get Involved in Suicide Prevention     


Participate in suicide prevention and help save lives.

  1. Visit our website  to learn about suicide warning signs, symptoms, and risk factors.
  2. Participate in suicide prevention activities like an Out of the Darkness Community Walk. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention holds community walks across the country to raise funds and awareness for suicide prevention.
  3. Contact us to talk about scheduling a training for your organization. Our trainings include such topics as Best Practices in Suicide Assessment and Intervention, Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk (AMSR): Core Competencies for Mental Health Professionals, and Recognizing Depression and Suicide Risk. Visit our website to see our full list of trainings.  
  4. Connect with the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention's Regional Coalition nearest you, and support their efforts.  

Does Coffee Reduce the Risk of Suicide?   


A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health suggests two to three cups of  coffee each day reduces the risk of suicide in both men and women by 50%.* Researchers reviewed data from three large U.S. studies that had followed the nutrition habits of over 43,000 male health professionals and more than 164,000 female nurses, and noted those study participants who drank caffeinated drinks (80% coffee) were less likely to die by suicide.


Previous studies of caffeine have suggested it can act as a mood-enhancer and mild antidepressant. Researchers conclude caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and boosts certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline.


Researchers did warn that drinking more than three cups of coffee per day did not increase the mood-enhancing effect and in fact cited a Finnish study indicating more than eight to nine cups of coffee per day actually increased the risk of suicide.


This study was published online in the July 2, 2013, World Journal of Biological Psychiatry. More information can also be found on the Harvard School of Public Health website.



*"Coffee, caffeine, and risk of completed suicide: Results from three prospective cohorts of American adults," World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, July 2, 2013. Retrieved from Informa Healthcare.  


Training Firefighters in Suicide Prevention

Springfield, MA firefighters
with Sarah Gaer, MA.

Firefighters and other first responders play a major role in suicide prevention. They often have first contact with people who have experienced traumatic events or personal crises, so they are important "gatekeepers" for anyone at risk of suicide or self-harm. There is also some research that first responders themselves may be at elevated risk for suicide. For this reason, Riverside Trauma Center considers it a priority to provide public safety officers with information around suicide risk factors and warning signs.


Sarah Gaer, MA, Riverside Trauma Center's Suicide Prevention Specialist, recently partnered with now retired Training Captain Stanislaus Skarzinski and Commissioner Joseph Conant of the Springfield Fire Department to provide QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) suicide prevention training to their entire department. The Springfield Fire Department is the third largest in the state with eight firehouses, which made scheduling these trainings challenging. The trainings were held on shift in the firehouse with groups ranging from 2 to 15 firefighters. At times, our trainings had to be interrupted and rescheduled because firefighters had to respond to emergency calls. More than 27 trainings have been completed with one still scheduled for September for firefighters who have not yet been trained. We will also be training the new recruit classes this fall. 


Feedback from the firefighters was positive: "This was a great training and very helpful." "This was a great program. I feel more confident and now I will know what to look for." "More training should be required."


We surveyed the firefighters both before and after the class to gauge their perceptions about suicide prevention trainings, knowledge about suicide and risk, and confidence about questioning, persuading, and referring individuals. They rated six statements on a scale from one to six; six being the most positive rating. We are excited to report a significant shift in attitude and confidence according to these surveys.


Statement 1: I have increased my knowledge of suicide prevention. (only asked post-training)   

Statement 2: I believe that trainings such as this help to prevent suicide.  

Statement 3: I feel competent to recognize the warning signs of suicide.    
Statement 4: I feel confident that I can question a person about suicidal thoughts.
Statement 5: I feel confident that I can persuade someone to get help.  
Statement 6: I feel confident that I can refer someone for help.




The success of this major training effort has motivated us to reach out to other fire departments in Massachusetts. This three-hour program is provided free of charge to fire departments, and is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Suicide Prevention Program. In the future, we may be able to offer OEMS credit. For further information or if you are interested in these trainings for your department, please contact Sarah Gaer at sgaer@riversidecc.org.


Guidelines on Mental Health Care After Trauma

The World Health Organization (WHO) together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, recently released new protocols for mental health care after trauma entitled "Guidelines for the Management of Conditions Specifically Related to Stress" in order to provide assistance to health care workers worldwide in responding to people who have experienced trauma and loss. The guidelines talk about the breadth of trauma as well as the range of responses that health care workers are likely to see. 


Since therapists and psychiatrists are not always available in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, these guidelines are intended to provide front-line workers with guidance on how to provide initial responses. Much of the focus is on the broad and immediate provision of Psychological First Aid. WHO also recommends specific types of evidence-based, trauma-focused therapy for individuals who present with ongoing symptoms - in particular they discuss Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). WHO also specifically recommends avoiding the use of benzodiapines, particularly in the first 30 days after a traumatic event.


Riverside Trauma Center is pleased to note that all of our established protocols for responding to traumatic events are in line with the new WHO recommendations. For more information, visit the World Health Organization website.


 Back to top 

ISTSS Annual Meeting 

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies 29th Annual Meeting

Resilience After Trauma: From Surviving to Thriving

November 7 - 9, 2013

Pre-Meeting Institutes - November 6

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA


The 2013 meeting in Philadelphia will be the year's largest gathering of professionals dedicated to trauma treatment, education, research, and prevention. More than 100 symposia, workshops, panel discussions, cases, and media presentations will be presented on a wide variety of topics related to traumatic stress. For more information, visit the ISTSS website


 Back to top 

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.


Like us on Facebookwww.riversidetraumacenter.org

781-433-0672, ext. 5738


Back to top