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Marathon Anniversary: Support for Those Who Need It

Free mental health sessions begin on BU campus today


One year ago today, two bombs ripped through the crowd gathered at the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street near Copley Square to cheer on runners. The tragedy injured 260 people and claimed the lives of 3, one of them first-time spectator Lu Lingzi (GRS’13), a promising graduate student from China. Dozens of University volunteers suddenly pivoted from caring for dehydrated runners to triaging gravely wounded spectators, while many others, students, faculty, and staff, were eyewitnesses to one of the most horrific events in Boston’s history.

Most people facing the anniversary of a terrible event fear and dread it, especially the first year, according to Dori Hutchinson (SAR’85,’96), a Sargent College associate clinical professor of occupational therapy and director of services at the BU Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation.

“We don’t know how we’re going to be, and we can feel really vulnerable to the advancement of that anniversary date,” Hutchinson says. “People’s sense of safety was so disrupted,” especially in a city most residents consider relatively peaceful. “To have that taken away really was devastating for many, many people.”

That’s why the University has organized a series of free support groups across campus, where students can come to connect, remember, and share stories and feelings from that day. The Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP) is hosting the first session today from 5 to 6:15 p.m. at 930 Commonwealth Ave. Additional sessions will be held tomorrow through Wednesday, April 23, at various locations and times. Preregistration is not required.

University mental health experts say it’s common for people in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event like the Marathon bombings to experience nightmares, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and ability to focus, and a range of emotions, from sadness and anger to anxiety and fear. For most people, those symptoms abate, but for some, they can continue and are made worse by an anniversary.

“One of the most important things that I tell any individual is to acknowledge what you’re feeling and not judge it,” says Behavioral Medicine interim director Carrie Landa, a Student Health Services senior staff psychologist.

Landa recommends that students limit their exposure to news outlets and social media to avoid images or stories that could trigger intense emotions.

Some students may still be experiencing trouble concentrating a year after the bombings. Memories from those events may continue to intrude on their day-to-day lives; they may avoid socializing, drink more, or feel irritable or down. That’s when it’s time to seek a professional, mental health experts say.

“This anniversary may be the opportunity for them to say, ‘I’m not doing as well as I thought I was and I want to get help,’” Hutchinson says.

The University will host the following support groups to help students experiencing stress or anxiety related to the Boston Marathon bombing anniversary:

  • Today, April 15, from 5 to 6:15 p.m. at the Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP), 930 Comm. Ave.
  • Wednesday, April 16, from 4 to 5:15 p.m., at SARP.
  • Thursday, April 17, from noon to 1:15 p.m. and from 5 to 6:15 p.m. at SARP.
  • Friday, April 18, from noon to 1:15 p.m. at the Danielsen Institute, 185 Bay State Road.
  • Monday, April 21, from 4 to 5:15 p.m. at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 940 Commonwealth Ave.
  • Tuesday, April 22, from 5 to 6:15 p.m. at the College of General Studies, 871 Commonwealth Ave., Room 525.
  • Wednesday, April 23, from 2 to 3:15 p.m. at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, 648 Beacon St., sixth floor.

Faculty and staff experiencing difficulties dealing with the Boston Marathon anniversary can contact BU’s Faculty & Staff Assistance Office for support.

Those interested in seeking confidential mental health counseling can contact Student Health Services Behavioral Medicine, the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, and the Samaritans of Boston suicide hotline at 617-247-0220.

Students Actively Moving Forward at BU, a student organization for individuals grieving the death or illness of a loved one, is hosting a support group on Monday, April 28, from 8 to 9 p.m. at the Howard Thurman Center, 775 Commonwealth Ave., GSU lower level. The group also provides Grief Relief packages filled with resources, cookies, tea, tissues, and other items.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is hosting free support services for community members affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. More information is here.

Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Follow Leslie Friday on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

One Comment on Marathon Anniversary: Support for Those Who Need It

  • Sarah G. on 04.15.2014 at 9:44 am

    Thank you for providing these services–it is appreciated.

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