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Response to the Boston Marathon Bombing

April 2013

The NASW-MA Chapter’s thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the Boston Marathon Bombing. The bombing has placed a tremendous emotional toll on all of us and we want to emphasize the importance of taking the time to process this tragic event with your colleagues, families, and friends. We encourage all social workers to take appropriate steps within their area of practice to help others deal with the aftermath. Many children and adults will be asking questions, sharing concerns, and possibly exhibiting symptoms of anxiety or depression based on their personal reactions to this tragedy.

Sign and symptoms people may experience following a traumatic stress incident:

• Trouble sleeping or having bad dreams
• Recurring images or flashbacks
• Strong emotions such as anger, guilt, anxiety, fear or sadness
• Flatness or disinterest in life or routine
• Irritability
• Startled easily, feeling cautious
• Avoiding reminders related to the event
• Headaches, diarrhea, nausea, or other developing physical ailments
• Difficulty remembering the event
• Substance use increases

Taking Action
Each positive action you take can help you feel better and more in control. Here are some helpful tips that may help:

  • Take care of your safety. Find a safe place to stay and make sure your physical health needs and those of your family are addressed.
  • Eat healthy. During times of stress it is important that you maintain a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
  • Get rest. Giving your body and mind a break can boost your ability to cope with the stress you may be experiencing.
  • Stay connected with family and friends.
  • Be patient with yourself and with those around you. Recognize that everyone is stressed and may need some time to put their feelings and thoughts in order.
  • Gather information about assistance and resources that will help you and your family members meet your disaster related needs.
  • Stay positive. Remind yourself of how you’ve successfully gotten through difficult times in the past.

If You Still Don’t Feel Better

Many people have experience coping with stressful life events and typically feel better after a few days. Others find that their stress does not go away as quickly as they would like and it influences their relationships with their family, friends, and others. If you find yourself or a loved one experiencing some of the feelings and reactions listed below for two weeks or more, this may be a sign that you need to reach out for additional assistance:

• Crying spells or bursts of anger
• Difficulty eating and sleeping
• Losing interest in things
• Increased physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches
• Fatigue
• Feeling guilty, helpless, or hopeless
• Avoiding family and friends

General Guidelines for Parents to Help Children Deal with Tragedy

1. Give yourself time to react before you speak with your child.
2. Speak with your child in a calm voice and appear confident.
3. Reassure the child about his or her own safety.
4. Answer questions, but do not over-explain.
5. If you do not know an answer, be honest and say you don't know and will try to find out.

Resources from the Children’s League of Massachusetts:


The Chapter has a valuable resource document entitled "Disaster Resources for Social Workers and Clients,” which can be found on the website,, and includes information such as:

Disaster Distress Hotline
This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone (1-800-985-5990) and SMS (text 'TalkWithUs' to 66746) to residents in the U.S. and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or man-made disasters.

Emotional Responses to Disasters

When we experience a disaster or other stressful life event, we can have a variety of reactions, all of which can be common responses to difficult situations.

American Red Cross
The American Red Cross uses social workers along with other mental health professionals as volunteers in its Disaster Mental Health Services. It offers training in many Red Cross Disaster Services, including community disaster education, mass care and sheltering. To find out about training and volunteer opportunities contact your local American Red Cross.

Many members and other mental health professionals in the community are asking how they can help. If you have completed trainings through the American Red Cross and are listed as an Emergency Responder, the American Red Cross may have already contacted you for your volunteer services. For members who would like to be trained for future disasters, the Chapter has reached out to the American Red Cross and we are in the planning stages to offer disaster preparedness training specifically geared to social workers. We will share information about this training as soon as it has been scheduled. Additionally, the Chapter will offer a continuing education program focus on addressing disasters and the aftermath of disasters this spring or early summer.



Updated 4.29.13


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