Israeli team helps Boston fight back against trauma

Published on Thursday, 09 May 2013 by Webmaster

Israeli team helps Boston fight back against trauma
It’s not every day that emergency first-responders and government administrators pick up crayons to depict their feelings, but recent weeks in Boston have been anything but ordinary for citizens traumatized by the April 15 Boston Marathon attack.

Crayons are just one tool deployed by six Israeli trauma experts visiting Boston to help form post-attack recovery strategies. As specialists with the Israel Trauma Coalition for Response and Preparedness (ITC), the team is working with local counterparts until Friday.

The mission started on Monday in Watertown, the Boston suburb where authorities captured alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on April 19 following an intense manhunt. Meeting separately with parents, school administrators and clinical staff, ITC members discussed communal strategies to recover from the highest profile terror attack in the US since Sept. 11, 2001.

Whether serving in Mumbai, India or Toulouse, France, the ITC's trauma specialists work closely with community stakeholders to devise recovery plans. Once the initial shock of an attack or catastrophe wanes, ITC staff will reframe the situation for victims by refocusing their thinking.

Each ITC intervention aims to create a "coordinated, synergetic coping and recovering process that will be open to the entire community."

Created in 2001, the ITC was shaped during the Second Intifada years of suicide bombings. The group went on to respond to conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon while opening a spate of "resilience centers" across Israel. Gradually, the coalition's focus expanded from individual victims to a more holistic approach involving community reinvigoration.

During a five-hour "Psychological First Aid and Resilience" training, two-dozen social workers and first-responders discussed concepts like acute stress reaction and the principle of continuity in treating victims. Professionals used crayons to portray their emotions before, during and after the April 15 terror attack.

The ITC team will meet with hundreds community members by the time its visit ends on Friday. One session will be held at the Ella J. Baker House for high-risk youth in Dorchester, close to where 8-year old bombing victim Martin Richard lived. Coalition members will also meet with Armenian family doctors in Watertown – home to more than 8,000 Armenians – to discuss trauma in immigrant populations.

Sponsored by Boston's Jewish federation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), the ITC's work in Boston inverts the familiar scenario of the city's Jewish community reacting to terror attacks in Israel.

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