Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society and Pennsylvania Medical Society officials Friday expressed sympathy and offered advice for those affected by Thursday’s shootings at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital’s Sister Mary Lenahan Wellness Center that resulted in the death of a caseworker, the wounding of a psychiatrist and the critical injury of a psychiatric patient who is the suspected perpetrator.
“Such events remind us that workplace violence is a risk which health care workers face daily, and our professional organizations will continue to monitor the investigation to help determine ways to make patient care safer for everyone,” the joint statement said of the tragedy that occurred around 2:20 p.m. Thursday at the wellness center in Yeadon across the street from the main hospital which is in Darby.
The doctors also issued guidelines for coping with what they described as “a tremendous psychological impact on those directly and indirectly affected.”
Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society President Dr. Shivkumar S. Hatti, who has a practice in Nether Providence, said there is immediate concern for those affected by, and the volunteers helping with, the tragedy.
“Traumatic events affect survivors, rescue workers and the friends and relatives of victims who have been involved. As psychiatrists, we understand the shooting may cause significant distress and pose potential threats to the mental health of everyone involved. It is important for everyone to know that help is available and treatment does work,” said Hatti.
He offers the following coping strategies:
• Stay informed about new information and developments, but avoid overexposure to news rebroadcasts of the tragedy. Be sure to use credible information sources to avoid speculation and rumors;
• If you feel anxious, angry or sad, you are not alone. Talk to friends, family or peers who are likely experiencing the same feelings;
• If you have contact with children, keep open dialogues with them regarding their fears of danger. Talk about your ability to cope with tragedy and get through the ordeal;
• Feelings of anxiety and sadness following a traumatic event are natural. If these symptoms continue, even after order has been restored, or if these feelings begin to overwhelm you or your child, seek the advice of a psychiatric physician or other mental health professional in your local community.
He noted that it is normal after such a tragedy to experience a wide range of mental or emotional reactions ranging from sadness to stress and anxiety,but more severe mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, ongoing anxiety disorders, and depression can occur.
Additional information about mental health issues is available at the American Psychiatric Association’s public education website at www.psychiatry.org/mental-health. Information about Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Psychiatric societies and additional resources is available at www.papsych.org.