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College of Human Ecology

K-State trauma researcher says being prepared, taking action are vital in preventing tragedies like the one at NIU

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MANHATTAN -- Be aware, be prepared and take action.

That's the advice from a Kansas State University trauma expert on preventing tragedies like the one recently at Northern Illinois University.

K-State's Briana Nelson Goff, associate dean of K-State's College of Human Ecology and associate professor of family studies and human services, leads the Trauma Research, Education and Consultation at K-State, or TRECK Team.

K-State's TRECK Team focuses on conducting research and educating professionals and the public about traumatic events and how they affect individuals, families and institutions.

Although no preventive measure is foolproof, Goff said there are things individuals and institutions can do to help prevent tragedies like the one at NIU and the one at Virginia Tech in spring 2007.

The first thing is to pay attention to those around you. Research has shown that people are reluctant to get involved or do not feel equipped to help, Goff said.

"Learn to recognize cries for help -- which aren't always vocal -- and take them seriously. Note changes in behavior such as withdrawing from others, becoming increasingly angry or being uncommonly absent from class or work," she said. "A counselor might recognize symptoms and know how to deal with them, but someone without training might not. We need to help faculty and staff gain skills to help students and colleagues."

Another important key is for institutions to have a plan of action that includes safety and communications. Most probably believe they are prepared until something happens, Goff said.

"Clearly, after the Virginia Tech tragedy last April, universities are working to prepare for this type of event," Goff said. "Preliminary reports after the NIU shootings indicate very swift action by campus officials, with the notification system, and by students in the classroom and outside the building."

Each individual should have a plan that includes whom to contact in an emergency, what personal phone calls to make, and how to be safe in a dorm room, classroom or car, she said.

Taking action also can help prevent a tragedy.

"If you recognize a problem, do something. Intervene, especially with students. Talk to them," Goff said.

Tragedies like that at NIU affect K-State faculty and students, Goff said. "We know colleagues and students there. We worry that it could happen here," she said.

During any national tragedy, it's good to let young people express their feelings, Goff said.

Goff also advises vigilance but not hyper-vigilance. "Don't become paranoid. Don't stay home and quit interacting with people, but do be aware of what's happening around you," she said.

Source: Briana Nelson Goff, 785-532-5500, bnelson@k-state.edu
http://www.k-state.edu/media/mediaguide/bios/goffbio.html

This article was posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2008, and is filed under College News.