Riverside Trauma Center Newsletter
Winter 2012
In This Issue
Join Us to Celebrate
Gaps in U.S. Mental Health Training
Meet Our Staff
Activities for Children in Evacuation Settings
Suicide Rates Increase in Middle-Aged Men
E.M.D.R. Treatment
for Trauma


This fall, in addition to responding to traumatic events at schools, private companies, and organizations; planning suicide screenings for schools; and conducting various trainings, we have also moved offices. While moving was a little bit hectic, the good news is that we only had to relocate across the parking lot.


We are now settled in our new space, and would like to invite you to our Open House Celebration. I can promise you great food, engaging conversation, and just an overall good time. Information about the event is below. I hope to see you there.



Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D.

Director, Riverside Trauma Center

Join Us to Celebrate Our New Home 

When:   Tuesday, December 4, 2012, from 4-7 pm

Where:  255 Highland Ave., Needham, MA


We have moved right next door, so come visit our new office space and enjoy:

  • Welcoming remarks by Alan Holmlund, Director, Suicide Prevention Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health 
  • An informative, brief presentation about resilience and how to build those skills at 5 pm
  • A bit of relaxation with a gentle yoga workshop at 6 pm
  • Delicious appetizers and beverages

You will also get the opportunity to see our new, comfortable counseling and meeting space, and engage in some sparkling conversation. Directions to our office are on our website. We look forward to seeing you there!

Serious Gaps in U.S. Mental Health Training   


Most people who are concerned about the potential for suicide of a particular family member, friend, or coworker feel greatly relieved once that person has been referred to a mental health clinician. Sadly, that referral alone is not sufficient since most mental health clinicians have had little or no formal training in assessing suicide risk, yet they are often called upon to do so.


A recent report entitled Preventing Suicide Through Improved Training in Suicide Risk Assessment and Care by the American Association on Suicidology responds to the fact that only 40-55 percent of psychologists (depending on the survey reviewed), 25 percent of social workers, and 6 percent of counselors have received training in graduate school on suicide risk assessment.* Similarly, only one state requires mental health clinicians to have continuing education in suicide risk assessment and management (Washington recently passed such a regulation). More than 105 people die by suicide in the U.S. every day. To save these lives, we must ensure that clinicians have adequate training to know how best to recognize and manage a suicidal crisis.


Over the past several years, Riverside Trauma Center has been responding to this serious gap in training mental health clinicians and human services providers by conducting trainings on best practices in suicide risk assessment and management in communities and at agencies throughout the Commonwealth. We are developing and pilot testing a new, comprehensive training program for clinicians and human services staff that will first be used to train clinicians, other professionals, and peer counselors throughout the Riverside Community Care network of programs. The new training will then be available more widely to other human services organizations and clinical practices. Information on Riverside Trauma Center's suicide prevention education programs is available on our website.


−Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D.

Director, Riverside Trauma Center



*Schmitz Jr., W.M., et al. (2012)."Preventing Suicide through Improved Training in Suicide Risk Assessment and Care: An American Association of Suicidology Task Force Report Addressing Serious Gaps in U.S. Mental Health Training." Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior. June 2012; 42 (3), 292-304.

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Meet Our Staff


Sarah Gaer, MA Sarah Gaer

Suicide Prevention Specialist


What do you do at Riverside Trauma Center?

I am a Suicide Prevention Specialist with a specific focus on developing initiatives for suicide prevention related to middle-aged men. I am also an active member of the trauma response and community training teams.


What motivated you to go into the mental health field?

I took a variety of classes in college and found that I was most inspired by the psychology and sociology classes. That interest coupled with my desire to help people navigate through tough times in their lives, made it clear to me that my path led to the mental health field.


What guided you to work at Riverside Trauma Center?

When I was a young adult, my best friend from high school took her own life only days after I had accepted my first job in human services. Postvention services were not available to us then, so we were left trying to make sense of her tragic death on our own. Years later when I attended a Psychological First Aid (PFA) training provided by Riverside Trauma Center, I discovered the tools that would have helped us recover from the loss of our friend had they been available to us at that time. I was motivated by that training. I also had the opportunity to be a Team Leader in the Riverside/FEMA crisis counseling program following the tornadoes in Central and Western Massachusetts.


What is the most rewarding part of being in the mental health field?

Through the years, there has been a thread that has been consistent in my career − helping those who have been impacted by traumatic experiences. I have had the honor of witnessing human resilience, healing, and strength in the many people with whom I have worked. While I certainly believe that our personal and professional interests and experiences call us to this work, it is our hearts, our compassion, and our kindness that make us good at what we do.


Sarah can be reached at:


781-433-0672, ext. 5662   
Activities for Children in Evacuation Settings


The National Child Traumatic Stress Network's (NCTSN) Terrorism and Disaster Committee has developed a new set of resources for children in evacuation settings. They include a set of activities which require no supplies, activities that can be done in a car, activities requiring limited supplies for both daytime of nighttime/dark areas, and a family evacuation supply checklist.  For more information, visit www.nctsn.org or go directly to the resource sheets.
Suicide Rates Increase for Middle-Aged Men   
 middle-age man

Historically, suicide prevention efforts have focused on populations such as youth, the GLBT community, and the elderly. Recently, however, we have started to turn our focus to one of the fastest-growing at-risk populations − middle-aged men. In 2000 the national rate for suicide was 14.6 per 100,000 for men 45-54.1 As of 2010, that rate had climbed to 19.8 per 100,000.2 Men who have underlying mental health issues, family history, substance abuse issues, a recent divorce, job loss, or economic problems are especially at risk.


Middle-aged men are not only the highest-risk group in sheer numbers, but they also often present with a significant consequence of their deaths − the number of children left behind. Each year 7,000-12,000 children in the United States experience the suicide of a parent,3 and this number is increasing. Although research remains limited in the area of suicide bereavement among children and adolescents, it has been noted that there is an increase in behavioral issues and posttraumatic stress disorder among children who have lost a parent to suicide.3 The concern should extend even beyond the direct emotional impact on the surviving children and spouse, and include the economic effects on those survivors. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, earning potential peaks between the ages of 44-54. The loss of that income could possibly have a devastating impact on those left behind.


Riverside Trauma Center is focusing attention on suicide prevention for middle-aged men. We recognize this great challenge as men are often reluctant to acknowledge depression or seek services. Our goal is to collaborate with and build on the small number of new projects underway here in Massachusetts, and to learn from some of the emerging efforts around the nation. One of the strategies we will promote involves encouraging spouses, partners, and supervisors to reach out and try to connect at-risk men to existing resources, such as the new, humor-based website, Man Therapy or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).


We are seeking input and ideas about how best to reach out to men who may be at risk. If you have suggestions or experiences to share about prevention strategies, please send those to Sarah Gaer at sgaer@riversidecc.org.


−Sarah Gaer, MA

Suicide Prevention Specialist, Riverside Trauma Center



1U.S. Suicide Statistics (1990-2001). Retrieved from www.suicide.org

2Facts and Figures, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Retrieved from www.afsp.org.

3Cerel, J., Jordan, J.R., Duberstein, P.R. "The Impact of Suicide on Families." Crisis. 2008; 29(1): 38-44.

E.M.D.R Treatment for Trauma: Science or Science Fiction?


There has been a lot of debate about whether Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (E.M.D.R.) is a legitimate form of psychotherapy for the treatment of trauma, or if it is just a bunch of "finger waggling" or well-intended chicanery.

E.M.D.R.'s founder, Francine Shapiro, explains that "E.M.D.R. integrates elements of many other therapeutic modalities (psychodynamic, imaginal exposure, cognitive, interpersonal, experiential, physiological and somatic therapies), but is distinct in its use of bilateral stimulation (e.g., eye movements, tones, or tapping)." The bilateral stimulation, while only one part of a complex treatment, is the source of much of the controversy around E.M.D.R. Many people feel that eye movements for which the treatment was originally named (although Dr. Shapiro says that if she had it to do over, she would just call it Reprocessing Therapy), raise images of hypnosis or magic.


However, while there are still many questions about exactly how and why E.M.D.R. works, the scientific evidence is pretty definitive that it does work. This has been established in over 20 randomized control trials. E.M.D.R. is now recommended as an effective treatment for trauma by the American Psychiatric Association, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, among others.


Several clinicians at the Riverside Trauma Center have recently been trained in providing E.M.D.R. therapy. Some of us were skeptical going into the training, but much of the training is experiential. It was quite intense to see the effects that we and dozens of other clinicians experienced at the training. It has also been powerful to see the impact the treatment has had on our clients.


E.M.D.R. is certainly not the only effective treatment for traumatic stress, and it is not for everyone. But it is another tool that we can use to help promote recovery after traumatic events. Riverside Trauma Center clinicians are also trained in and practice a wide range of other therapeutic modalities. For more information, please see our bios at www.riversidetraumacenter.org.


To read Dr. Shapiro's responses to some of the difficult questions that have been raised about E.M.D.R., please read "The Evidence on E.M.D.R." in the The New York Times.


−Joanna Hooper, LICSW

Clinical Services Director, Riverside Trauma Center

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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 would 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. 5738


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