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Interview With Susan Webb - 2002-10-23


With recent terrorist events in Israel, Bali, and Washington D.C., VOA-TV’s David Borgida spoke with Susan Webb, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of the District of Columbia. Ms. Webb discusses how people are “living with terror” and provides suggestions for families on how they should cope with these stressful and frightening events.

MR. BORGIDA:
Now joining us in our studio, Susan Webb, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Washington, D.C. Ms. Webb, I know this has been a busy time for you. Thanks for joining us today.

MS. WEBB:
Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

MR. BORGIDA:
The Washington area, as we have just been reporting, is seeing its share of terrorism now, for the last few weeks, but Jerusalem, the Bali bombings, terror bombings in the Philippines, all these are underscoring that people around the world are coping with terrorism, living with it as a matter of fact. Is this the new reality, and how are people handling it? How can they handle this?

MS. WEBB:
Well, it is actually a real crisis that we are all in in this world. In fact, there has been terror throughout the world, just not in the Americas before. And now we are seeing it here at home. People around the world have generally learned resiliency skills, so that they are able to deal with these acts of terror that happen, and are able to cope with it much better than we are here in America.

MR. BORGIDA:
What are those kinds of resiliency skills?

MS. WEBB:
Having a faith community, having a belief, having that community that you are close to, being close with family, having a close-knit family, a group of friends -- community again -- that you are in touch with and involved with. Being involved with a solution or being connected to a solution, so that you are helping in some volunteer way. And staying focused, remembering that you have to continue to live and that life goes on despite the terror.

MR. BORGIDA:
Are mental health professionals seeing more people professionally as a result of all of this?

MS. WEBB:
Absolutely.

MR. BORGIDA:
Or are people holding back and just dealing with family members and not seeking help?

MS. WEBB:
No, I think that many people, many more people, are coming in for treatment than were before. And of course there are people who don't need treatment. They simply are able to move through life and recognize this as a crisis, which it is, recognize terror as something that is abnormal, and are able to cope with it. But we are seeing many more people come in to treatment. And more people need to come in who are not coming in, who are unable to deal with it but are not recognizing that they should seek treatment.

MR. BORGIDA:
I guess we are talking primarily here about what adults are doing, and we assume some mature sense of responsibility here and a mature response. But for the children of these areas that are particularly hard hit, how can they cope if they don't have these kinds of mature skills that you're talking about?

MS. WEBB:
Parents and responsible adults who are in charge of children need to really come to the aid of children at this point. We need adults to talk with children about the terror, what it is, but in their language. We need them to talk on their level and not talk above a child. Meaning that if you are talking to an elementary age child, you are not telling them that someone is out shooting everybody. You are discussing it in language that they can understand so as not to further terrorize that child.

And children need to feel safe. They need to know that there is an adult, or there are adults, a community of adults, who are watching them, who are going to keep them safe, and will ensure their safety.

MR. BORGIDA:
It is not an easy thing to do, to talk to the children, in all of these capitals. We are doing the best we can as parents in order to do that.

MS. WEBB:
That is true.

MR. BORGIDA:
The views of Susan Webb, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Washington, D.C. Thank you, Ms. Webb, for joining us.

MS. WEBB:
Thank you.

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