Mental Health Task Force
The mental health task force recruits and schedules mental health professionals who have experience with crisis intervention and are comfortable with a nontraditional, informal, nontherapeutic role in providing mental health care. Mental health care volunteers should meet professional standards to provide services in the jurisdiction in which the care is administered. Mental health professionals, as with other volunteers, should be vetted and credentialed to work with victims. (Refer to Working With Volunteers for additional information on screening and credentialing.)
The mental health task force should ensure that formal professional confidentiality mandates apply to all relationships between victims and professional mental health volunteers established at the Safe Haven. Victims, however, should be informed that no formal therapeutic relationship exists between mental health professionals and victims. The task force should make certain that the volunteer release of liability and confidentiality agreement (PDF 46.7 kb) adequately covers all situations and relationships related to the Safe Haven as covered in the Volunteer Protection Act.11 The task force should also develop an emergency plan that details procedures and legal responsibilities for voluntary and non-voluntary mental health intervention and hospital admission or "hold" for victims at the Safe Haven.
Mental health professionals should use a victim service model in providing victim care and should provide insight and consultation about victims' reactions during the trial. A variety of counseling and support options should be offered, including one-on-one and group sessions. Information obtained from victims attending the Oklahoma City bombing trials indicated that a mental health framework including peer support, an offsite retreat, and group support were beneficial to the healing process.
The support that victims of a mass tragedy receive from one another is invaluable. Because they have universal issues of grief and loss, they may have a sense of being "different" from others who do not share their experience. Peer support allows victims to feel connected with others and feel validation of their grief and sadness.
The same benefits achieved in a traditional retreat situation are found when victims attend a trial away from where they live. The concentrated time and contact with others who share a common experience of loss and tragedy allow victims to focus on their victimization and loss, thereby promoting the emotional healing process.
Formal group support is valuable in addressing trauma and grief. A modified group therapy format is best suited for victims attending a trial. The benefits of group therapy include
- Catharsis or the venting of emotions.
- Dissolving the myth of a unique personal weakness.
- Modeling coping behavior.
- Sharing constructive information.
- Creating feelings of hope.
- Helping oneself by being able to help another in the group.12
Resources for Mental Health Task Forces