The tragedy of September 11th is an experience that will stay with all of us to some degree over many years. In an effort to better understand how our campus community reacts to such events and therefore better prepare for them, we conducted an online survey of our community members-- students, faculty and staff. We are one of a very few campuses to examine this impact, and we are currently publishing the results to that other campuses can learn from our expeience. The results of the survey are presented below in an abstract or overview. If you would like to read the complete report, click on Full Text for the document in Word format. While it generally indicates that we, like most other people around the country, were distressed by it and continue to experience some signs of stress, it also showed that we are resilient and rely on others for support. If you have questions about the study, please contact David Swenson in the Management Department (723-6476) or Jerry Henkel-Johnson in the Psychology Department (723-6023)
David X. Swenson Ph.D. LP & Gerald Henkel-Johnson Psy.D. LP
This study examined the effects of vicarious exposure to the September 11 terrorist attacks, in an academic community just after the three month period that delineates acute from intermediate post traumatic stress. An entire academic community of 1693 students, faculty, and staff was surveyed electronically regarding their perceived stress symptoms and coping behaviors. The survey yielded a 37 percent response rate. About 76 percent showed one or more substantial symptoms of stress, and 32 percent showed three or more. The most prominent symptom clusters involved hypervigilence, anxiety, and apprehension about the future. Respondents primarily relied on coping through optimism, reassessing priorities and relationships, giving and receiving support, and becoming better informed on terrorism related topics. Differences in symptoms and coping preferences were found based on sex, group (student, faculty, staff), and exposure to previous crisis. This study indicates that in spite of time and distance from the site of the terrorism, all segments of a college community continue to experience some degree of distress. Such distress can interfere with academic performance, personal health, and relationship stability. Rather than rely on formal support service delivery, most appear to rely on established interpersonal relationships. This suggests that providing support to vicarious victims in the future might emphasize training for friends and family, rather than relying on established service delivery systems.
Full Text (pdf format)