Riverside Trauma Center Newsletter
Summer 2012
In This Issue
Whole Foods Fundraiser
Our 2nd Annual Conference
Grief Support Group for Children
Suicide Screenings in Schools
Supporting Youth on Social Media
Survivors of Suicide Loss Task Force
Combat to Campus
Skills for Psychological Recovery
2011 Accomplishments
Recent Presentations


This year has kept our team so busy that I can hardly believe summer is here. To date we have conducted a variety of trainings, held numerous suicide risk screenings in schools, and handled many responses to local traumatic events. I would like to thank all the people who played such instrumental roles in these efforts.


We have also had the honor of speaking at several events, such as the 11th Annual Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Conference and the American Association of Suicidology Annual Conference. And to top it all off, we just held our 2nd Riverside Trauma Center Annual Conference out in Natick, MA. I am happy to say that it was a day filled with captivating speakers and knowledgeable presentations. It was also a great opportunity to interact with others in our industry. Thank you to all the presenters and attendees who made the conference a special experience.


Best wishes for a wonderful summer!



Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D.

Director, Riverside Trauma Center

Whole Foods Fundraiser  

WF check
Kyle Marnane from Whole Foods Market (2nd from left) presents check to Riverside team: (from left) Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D.,
Katie Welch, and Jim McCauley, LICSW.


On Thursday, June 7, 2012, Whole Foods Market at Legacy Place in Dedham, MA, donated 5% of that day's net sales to Riverside Trauma Center. The generous donation of $6,724.11 will be used by Riverside Trauma Center to help people  

in Massachusetts recover from the  

extreme stress caused by traumatic  

events, such as natural disasters, serious accidents,  suicides, homicides, and terrorism. We would like to thank every-

one who shopped at Whole Foods Market

in Dedham on that day. And we would especially like to thank Kyle Marnane, Marketing Team Leader at Whole Foods Market in Dedham, for all of his help and support.


The evening before 5% Day, Whole Foods sponsored a Riverside Trauma Center presentation about "Keeping Your Teen Safe: Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Depression and Suicide." This was a great opportunity for people to gain insight and ask questions about an important mental health issue that impacts many teens today. Waheeda Saif, LMHC, Program Coordinator at Riverside Trauma Center, conducted the presentation at the Dedham Community House. 

Our 2nd Annual Conference


We held our annual conference "Expanding Trauma Interventions: Family, Culture, and Community" on May 18 at the Crowne Plaza in Natick. It was a great chance to gain the most current ideas for responding to trauma occurring within the family. A lot of information was shared and discussed, and it was a wonderful opportunity to meet others in the industry. One attendee mentioned, "I enjoyed all of the speakers and the knowledge they each had on their topic." Another conference attendee said, "It was the best conference of the year. I enjoyed all the presentations."

Grief Support Group for Children

Riverside Trauma Center is offering a free group to provide
a safe and
supportive environment for children who are grieving a death to share their experiences through play, art, and conversation. This weekly group is targeted to children ages 9-12. (If your child is outside of this range, but you feel s/he could benefit from this group, please feel free to call
for more information.)

The group will be held at Riverside Community Care's offices at 255 Highland Ave., Needham, MA on Thursday evenings from 6:00 pm - 7:15 pm. Pre-registration is required. For more information or to register your child, please contact Joanna Hooper, LICSW at Riverside Trauma Center at 781-915-8366 or jhooper@riversidecc.org.
The Importance of Suicide Risk Screenings in Schools  


Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. So how can a school identify students who  

might be suicidal? Sometimes there are warning signs that are recognizable, but that is not always the case. One of our services involves working with school districts, particularly those that have recently experienced a suicide death, to conduct suicide screenings of their students. These screenings provide us with indicators that certain students might be struggling with depression or considering suicide.


Do these screenings work? One of the last students to be seen in a school district recently, indicated on his screening that he had been experiencing some symptoms of depression. So at the end of the day he met with a mental health clinician to talk about how he was feeling. The student confided in the clinician that he had been planning to go home and kill himself that very afternoon. He was someone that the school guidance staff had not noted on their radar screens at all.


Suicide screenings not only aid in the identification of students who need help, but they also teach the entire school community how to recognize the potential warnings signs of someone considering suicide. Riverside Trauma Center uses a curriculum developed by Screening for Mental Health called Signs of Suicide (SOS). The key message of the SOS curriculum is to encourage students who are worried about themselves or a friend, to tell a responsible adult. Since it is important to prepare the adults to respond appropriately, the first step is to hold a parent forum and an all-faculty training to discuss the risk factors and warning signs of suicide. We inform the adults that suicide among young people is a major health issue, but that it is almost always the result of a treatable mental illness combined with various other factors. It is important that the adults in the school community know how to recognize the signs and symptoms so that they can help students access treatment when needed.


The next step is to train the school staff--usually guidance and health staff--to take the lead in presenting the curriculum to the students in small, classroom-based groupings. While in certain cases Riverside Trauma Center staff take part in the class, it is even more effective to have school staff members lead the discussion since the students know them, and the staff will continue to be accessible to the students on a daily basis. The SOS curriculum includes a video, a facilitated discussion, and finally a depression and suicide screening tool which is a brief questionnaire that students complete.


If a student has a certain number of indicators of depression or suicidality on the screening tool, a mental health clinician meets with the student that day. The screening tool does not diagnose the problem; it simply alerts us to a student who might be at risk.


Having had a suicide death in a school increases the risk of suicide for other students. When we work in schools that have had a suicide death, we often find that between 10-25% of students need to be seen by a clinician. Recently we did screenings in a school where 40% of the students screened needed to speak to a clinician. After a suicide death, attention must be devoted to identifying whether close friends or others in the school might be at risk for suicide attempts or other risky behavior. See www.riversidetraumacenter.org for our postvention guidelines.


On an average day of screening, we might follow up with anywhere from 10 to 50 students who have been screened in as possibly having depression or suicidal thoughts. These are staggering numbers and they underscore the importance of the work that we are doing. Suicide is a preventable tragedy. The challenge is to identify the students in need so they can be encouraged to access the help that is available to them.

Supporting Youth on Social Media after a Suicide Death


Over the last several years, Facebook and other social media sites have been increasingly utilized by young people after the suicide death of a friend or classmate.  

In some cases, parents of a recently deceased teen have noticed distressing messages on their child's Facebook page and have had to intervene. A joint project between Samaritans and the Riverside Trauma Center has led to focus groups with adolescents and young adults to see how they view Facebook and to get their ideas as to how social media might be used in targeted suicide postvention efforts.


Waheeda Saif, LMHC and Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D. from Riverside Trauma Center recently teamed up with the Samaritans of Greater Boston and Metrowest to give a presentation at two major conferences entitled "Social Networking: A Crucial Component of Postvention Following Suicide Death of an Adolescent or Young Adult." The presentation discussed and outlined themes from focus groups with young survivors (those who lost a friend or classmate) and the development of a peer advisory model. One interesting finding was that young people said they sometimes visit the Facebook page of a deceased friend in the same way people might visit a cemetery to feel as if they were connecting with their lost friend.

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Survivors of Suicide Loss Task Force


Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D., Director of Riverside Trauma Center, has been invited to be a member of the Survivors of Suicide Loss Task Force, which is part of the National Action Alliance on Suicide Prevention. The National Action Alliance on Suicide Prevention, a public-private partnership, was created in 2010 to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.


The goal of the Survivors of Suicide Loss Task Force is to develop guidelines for the creation and implementation of effective, comprehensive programs to support survivors of suicide loss. These guidelines will serve as a standard for the development of a support infrastructure for survivors of suicide loss that will be used by practitioners, service providers, communities, families, and other partners that can help reduce the number of suicides in the United States. More information can be found at www.actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org.

"Combat to Campus" Symposium was a Success

Military man

"Combat to Campus," sponsored by Riverside Trauma Center and Worcester State University (WSU) Counseling Services and Veterans' Committee, was held on  

April 13, 2012, at the WSU campus. It was designed for college counseling center staff, disability coordinators, faculty members, and other people who were looking to better understand and respond to the specific psychosocial needs of combat veterans as they returned to higher education. Attendees provided incredibly positive feedback about the symposium like "great training" and "excellent presentations by everyone." Some of the day's highlights were the "Battlemind" presentation by Kevin Lambert and the panel of WSU student veterans who spoke about their experiences as veterans on campus.

Skills for Psychological Recovery

What happens after Psychological First Aid is used immediately following a disaster, but people are still in need of recovery help? That is when Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) comes into play. It is an evidence-informed modular approach to help children, adolescents, adults, and families in the weeks and months following a disaster or trauma. SPR, which was developed by the National Center for PTSD and the National Child Trauma Stress Network (NCTSN), is designed to help survivors gain skills to reduce ongoing distress and effectively cope with post-disaster stresses and adversities.


SPR is based on the principle that while many survivors will recover from a disaster on their own, some people might experience distressing reactions that might interfere with adaptive coping. This skills-based training intervention is designed to accelerate recovery and increase self-efficacy by helping the survivor regain a sense of control and competence. SPR core skills include building problem-solving skills, promoting positive activities, managing reactions, promoting helpful thinking , and rebuilding healthy social connections. It can be delivered by clinicians or other trained providers, and a minimum of three to five sessions are suggested.


When SPR was first rolled out in 2010 in Massachusetts, Riverside Trauma Center participated in the training along with FEMA's Crisis Counseling Program (CCP). It is currently being used in the field with great success by the CCP team in the response to the June 1st tornadoes in western Massachusetts. Providers report that SPR is an effective tool in helping survivors of the tornadoes who are still struggling almost a year after the disaster.

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2011 Accomplishments


2011 was a year full of activity. We provided services, trainings, and consultations to a variety of schools, health and human service providers, organizations, and community members. We interacted with 2,700 students and 440 school staff members in Massachusetts. We provided training to 1,381 people that helped them recognize and manage suicide risk and depression, and provided them with the skills to address the needs of a community after a traumatic event has occurred. We consulted or collaborated with 1,894 individuals and provided services to 2,507 community members and 370 agencies. In total, including FEMA-funded efforts, we connected with over 24,000 people in 2011.

Recent Presentations

Our team members have been speakers at the following events:


15th National School Social Work Conference  

On March 29 Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D., Director of Riverside Trauma Center, and Jim McCauley, LICSW, Associate Director of Riverside Trauma Center, in collaboration with Screening for Mental Health, Inc. presented "From Suicide Postvention to Prevention: Smart Actions Save Lives."


Needham Coalition for Suicide Prevention Event

On March 29 Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D. spoke about "Depression and Suicide in Middle-Age Men."


National Association of Social Workers - Massachusetts Chapter

Symposium 2012 

On March 30 Jim McCauley, LICSW and Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D. presented "Postvention Following a Suicide in Schools, Workplaces, and Communities."    


Boston Suicide Prevention Coalition

On April 10 Jim McCauley, LICSW and Joanna Hooper, LICSW, Clinical Services Director at Riverside Trauma Center, presented "Question, Persuade, and Refer."


American Association of Suicidology Annual Conference  

On April 21 Waheeda Saif, LMHC, Program Coordinator at Riverside Trauma Center and Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D. teamed up with the Boston/Framingham branches of Samaritans, Inc. to present "Social Networking: A Crucial Component of Postvention Following Suicide Death of an Adolescent or Young Adult."


The Newton Partnership

On April 24 Joanna Hooper, LICSW and Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D. spoke to parents in Newton, MA about "When Bad Things Happen to Good Families: Talking with Our Children about Transition, Crisis, and Loss."


11th Annual Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Conference

On May 1 Waheeda Saif, LMHC and Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D. teamed up with the Samaritans of Greater Boston and Metrowest to present "Using Social Media in Suicide Postvention with Adolescents and Young Adults."


If you would like to talk to us about our team presenting at an event for your organization or company, please call 781-433-0672, ext. 5636. 

Please Let Us Know What You Think

If you would like to share some comments about our newsletter or provide us with some ideas for articles that you would like to see, please send an email to tcenter@riversidecc.org. We'd love to hear from you.





Riverside Trauma Center is a service of Riverside Community Care, a non-profit organization. Services are primarily funded through donations and grants. All contributions are welcome and appreciated.


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781-433-0672, ext. 5636


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