Hawaii counselors get trained in mass crisis response

The American Counseling Association Conference is being held at the Hawaii Convention Center.

On Saturday, counselors watched a live demonstration simulating crisis response after a shooting at a university.

It’s a simulation that can help mental health professionals across the globe.

“Regardless of the disaster event, all of us experience an emotional reaction. Something happens. No one is left unchanged when these huge things happen to a community,” said Stephanie Dailey, a disaster mental health volunteer with the American Red Cross.

We learned that in traumatic events like shootings, fires, and natural disasters, mental health professionals are one of the first responders.

“In the midst of a crisis, there’s a lot of chaos going on. What’s the first thing that you do?” KHON2 asked.

“Safety. The first thing,” Dailey said.

The next step is to get information that will help the victim. You also want to provide safety and comfort.

“If someone is crying very heavily, offering them a tissue. So that’s safety. And that feeling of not assuring somebody that it’s going to be ok. Because you know what? It might not be ok. But trying to provide someone with a safe place right then and there,” Dailey said.

We spoke to counselors at Kapiolani Community College. While there’s never been a major crisis on campus, they say they want to be prepared.

“I think we all just need to be ready. Hopefully we never have anything of this kind of magnitude like Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook, or all those. But I think that it behooves all of us to just be ready in case something happens because we really want to support our students the best we can,” said Cathy Wehrman, a counselor at Kapiolani Community College.

“I think here, it was a very different kind of situation as opposed to what we do in our offices individually. So I think the main take away here was just for us to be able to be the ones to kind of be in charge of the situation and create more of a calmness,” said Sheryl Fuchino-Nishida, a counselor at Kapiolani Community College.

They hope counselors at all local campuses can get this type of training.

“I think we’re pretty well staffed with counselors, but I think this type of additional training would definitely be helpful so we know how to address specific scenarios like this,” Fuchino-Nishida said.

Counselors say that it’s normal to have difficult coping, even months after a traumatic event.

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