PARKLAND, FL- The second anniversary of the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas is on Friday, and the Parkland community as a whole is still dealing with healing and recovery. The parents and families of the victims still have gaping holes in their lives each and every day.
One of the many efforts that have been made to support the community in this season has been the effort to engage with the healing process and reach out to experts in the field. Dr. Scott Poland is a Professor at the College of Psychology and Co-Director of the Suicide and Violence Prevention Office at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. He has been assisting the Parkland community in its efforts since the tragedy in February of 2018. In 2019, he was selected by the Florida Safe School Office as one of two trainers on threat assessment for statewide training to meet new legislative requirements. He is known for his dynamic and practical applications post-tragedy, and was also named the most outstanding Psychologist in Texas.
Dr. Poland recently sat down with me to discuss how best to support our students and community in this season. His responses were genuine and helpful. Below is the Q&A with Dr. Poland.
Question: What is the most ideal way to check in with our loved ones affected by the tragedy?
Dr. Poland: "We need to support them. The most important thing is that they know we're here for them. We need to tell them that we can't imagine what they've gone through and that any time they want to talk, we're here for them."
Question: What would you say are the general indicators of healing and recovery?
Dr. Poland: "There are four keys to resiliency. The first is to have the problem solving skills and to utilize those skills. The second is having the opportunity to vent the tremendously strong emotions that come from a situation like this. The third is finding a place to be optimistic and hopeful for the future. A belief that things can be better. And fourth is having a loving family and support system for walking through tragedy. As parents, we can also model resiliency for our children."
Question: How about the day itself, February 14. Do we send our kids to school, and how do we handle it?
Dr. Poland: "Try to find some shared time with your student or child to just talk about it. Show them you are there for them. Gently tell them that you're available to talk whenever they wish. I would, in general, encourage kids to go to school."
Question: How do we sort through the options available for help?
Dr. Poland: "I'm really impressed by all that is offered in this community. There are many opportunities for the kids to share how they are feeling and express themselves. What is needed is a recovery coordinator that could link together all the options for getting help. The response to help has been extraordinary."
Question: Do you have any additional overall advice for our students, families, and community?
Dr. Poland: "The most important thing is simply being there for those affected and letting the recovery take its course. There shouldn't be an expectation of how people should feel, based on where they were or what their proximity is to the tragedy. Everyone is affected and heals differently, and there is no right or wrong way to recover from a situation like this one. Each person processes and heals on their own path and in their own time."
Special thanks to Dr. Poland for sharing his expertise and insight with the Parkland community.