Finnish Red Cross support for people shocked by school shooting

Published: 9 November 2007 0:00 CET

Sanna Räsänen, HelsinkiFinnish Red Cross

Nine people were killed and twelve injured in a shooting incident at the Jokela School Centre, 50 kilometres from Finland’s capital Helsinki, on Wednesday 7 November 2007. As soon as the police were called, they requested assistance from the first response units of the Finnish Red Cross.

Within an hour, dozens of volunteers had arrived to help evacuate the pupils from the secondary school building.The Finnish Red Cross called in their own crisis counsellors to help both at the crisis centre established near the school and to answer questions from the public on a crisis support hotline.

After discussing the division of labour with the authorities the Finnish Red Cross founded crisis groups to provide 24-hour psychological support for teachers, students and the families of students. With the students and teachers, they immediately set up sessions to process the events with the help of professional psychologists.

These sessions will continue as long as they are needed, possibly over a period of several months.Psychological support volunteers and psychologists manned the support hotline around-the-clock. During the first 24 hours after the shooting, some 400 people called the Red Cross hotline to talk about their experiences and emotional response.

The next step is to assess how long a 24-hour support hotline will be needed and how long around-the-clock support services will be made available for students, parents and teachers at the crisis centre set up nearby the Jokela school. Together with the authorities and the Finnish Red Cross, other organisations and parishes are also involved in the support work.