SF State community copes after multiple catastrophes

By Lulu Orozco 

Within a few days last week, a number of tragic events hit the country leaving college students, who are already struggling to get through their last month of finals, to cope with tragedies on a massive scale.

Monday, April 15, the sound of two terrifying bombs shook and frightened runners near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The twin blasts killed three and injured more than 100. Just a few days later, a massive explosion and fire at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, killed at least 15 and left up to 180 injured, as reported by The New York Times.

Though neither of the events happened in close proximity to SF State, tragedies of this scale can affect students nonetheless. Mental health professionals say the best way to cope with catastrophes is to make use of our existing social circles.

“The first thing we should all recognize is that our best resource against these type of events is to appreciate and rely upon the social support networks we belong to,” Assistant Professor of psychology Kevin Eschleman said in an email.

Between a social life, a job and school work, college students have no problem losing motivation. The weight of anxiety and a lack of adequate sleep can leave students with little time to think about who they can talk to about common stresses they may be experiencing during tragic events.

“Unfortunately, after you bare witness (to) so much violence in the media you become desensitized,” criminal justice major David Williams, 25, said.

According to Derethia DuVal, director of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at SF State, media can play a major role in the amount of stress students experience. DuVal recommends limiting consumption of TV news to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

“If you watch the news once a week, you’ll get the answers. The broadcast news thrives on sensationalism, so they keep it going night after night,” she said. “They run the same story over and over again, which can increase anxiety.”

Early Monday, the Counseling and Psychological Services Center on campus began offering group debriefing sessions for students, faculty and staff who may be experiencing distress as a result of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Mary Cavagnaro, clinical counselor at the Counseling and Psychological Services Center said few students use the center in relation to nationwide tragedies, but more students did use the center during the 9/11 attacks.

Students who don’t seek outlets for this extra stress, whether through counseling centers or informal social networks, can become listless and agitated, according to DuVal.

“Students tend to show a little anxiety. People might be more frustrated, a little nervous; they might have sleeplessness, problems with concentration, and being that it is midterms. It might be a little harder to get started in the morning,” DuVal said.

Universities across the country have also seen their share of campus violence. Tensions were high at SF State Monday morning, April 22, after a reported bomb threat in the Creative Arts Building turned out to be a hoax.

“This is our school, it makes you think, could this really happen here?” visual communication design major Mariah Ortiz, 21, said. “The more of these events continue to happen, the less people are going to believe them.”

DuVal said the best way to de-stress and cope with tragic events is to “get involved.”

“Being isolated is not good,” she said. “If you’re feeling hopeless about the world, getting involved in some kind of social justice activities helps you feel like you’re making a difference, and that gives you a sense of power, which can reduce your anxiety.”

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  • “’Unfortunately, after you bare [sic] witness (to) so much violence in the media you become desensitized,’ criminal justice major David Williams, 25, said.”

    That’s how that quote should have been formatted if it came via email. If it was a verbal statement, then the correct spelling (bear witness) should have been used by the journalist.

    World English Dictionary
    bear 1 [bair]
    — vb , bears , bearing , bore , borne
    11. to render or supply (esp in the phrase bear witness)
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bear?s=t

    Also, does the Golden Gate Xpress style guide not dictate that proper department names be capitalized, as in the above and the following quote: “’This is our school, it makes you think, could this really happen here?’ Visual Communication Design major Mariah Ortiz, 21, said.”?