4 Steps for Coping with Traumatic Events Following Tragedy at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital

The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED), Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society (PaPS), and Philadelphia Psychiatric Society (PPS) express our deepest sympathies to everyone affected by the recent tragedy that occurred on July 24, 2014, at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, PA, during which a case worker was killed and a doctor shot when a psychiatric patient opened fire on them.

“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,” said the three organizations in a joint news release issued on July 25.

PaPS and PPS offer tips and resources on how to minimize possible mental and emotional effects of trauma caused by the shootings, including these steps for coping with this traumatic event:

  1. 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.
  2. If you feel anxious, angry or sad, you are not alone. Talk to friends, family, or peers who are likely experiencing the same feelings.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

“A crisis such as this is an issue for all physicians and our patients,” said PAMED President Bruce MacLeod, MD. “We look to the clinical expertise and leadership of our psychiatrist colleagues to help guide our communities through events such as these and to assist in healing from their impact.”

“This is a very difficult time for everyone involved. Our immediate concerns are for the safety and well-being of those affected and the volunteers who are helping with this tragedy,” said Shivkumar Hatti, MD, MBA, president of the PaPS, and Marina Goldman, MD, president of the PPS. “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.”