Officials take time to reflect, field questions

Officials take time to reflect, field questions
With the nation still reeling last week following the April 16 massacre of over 30 students and faculty at Virginia Tech, students at The University of South Dakota hoped to find answers.

A panel of local mental health professionals and clergy didn't let the students down, fielding questions for nearly two hours Thursday, April 19.

Matt Stricherz, who directs the Student Counseling Center at The University of South Dakota, noted that his family immediately began to think about all of the family members affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy.

"We kind of put out a sense of love from a distance, a wish from a distance, and the hope that they would get news that's very positive about their sons and daughters."

The experience of working on a university campus, Stricherz added, brings the issue of family and connecting to those who you care about to the forefront.

"Students are such a good resource to other students who are going through troubling times," Stricherz said. "And with our USD students, when a friend is troubled, they take action by holding a hand, lending a ear, opening a heart, and sometimes, by making sure that somebody on campus is alerted when a student is walking a very troubled road."

The Rev. Joe Forcelle of the St. Thomas More Newman Center noted that the best way to keep a murderous rampage from happening on another college or university campus is for people to simply watch out for one another.

"We need to be the eyes and ears of everything around us," he said. "If we see something of concern, we should seek help."

The Rev. of the Christian Student Fellowship on campus, said members of the clergy are in a similar predicament with others when something as unexplainable as the Virginia Tech shootings occur.

"We don't know any more than any of you do why these things happen," he told the audience participating in the panel discussion. "We feel just as confused and scattered and torn as you do. But what we do know is that we can hold onto our faith as one of our anchoring points in the midst of it all. With that faith comes a sense of community."

USD mental health professional Beth Boyd noted that the news coverage of the campus slaying can "trigger emotions and reactions that any of us can eventually feel. And when things like this happen," she said, "it makes us all feel less of the illusion we have of safety."

Boyd said it's important for members of the USD campus community to be aware of mental health and spiritual resources to which they can turn during times like this, when individuals may be feeling a heightened sense of fear or stress.

"People need to know they can be comfortable in reaching out to these places for help," she said.

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