Educators generally do a great job in preparing for the mental health recovery of students following a crisis. They typically do not prepare enough for their own recovery.
In the past five years, I worked with educators after a high-profile school stabbing, a school shooting and student-shooter suicide, and a gang-related student killing in a community where safety concerns spilled over into a school. In each situation teachers, administrators, support staff, and safety professionals rose quickly to meet the mental health and enhanced security needs of students.
Not once, though, did we hear any unsolicited or self-focused comments from these adults about their own mental health needs. They worked tirelessly for days, weeks, and months to make sure their students were taken care of, moving forward, and protected as best possible.
Yet closer observations found pain and recovery needs for the caretakers themselves. We heard from teachers who had nightmares and staff who jumped at the sound of a dropped book. We spoke with one school support professional who cried when a colleague and I simply asked, “How are you doing?,” because no one had asked her that question even once within several months after the incident.
School crisis recovery plans must put student needs at the top of the list. But we need to put caring for their caretakers right next to them on the list. Those who act “in loco parentis” (in place of the child) deserve nothing less.
Do your schools have crisis recovery plans for both students and the adults who care for them?