UNIVERSITY PARK — Recognizing that Penn State employees have been impacted by unprecedented events occurring since November when a grand jury investigation revealed that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused children, the University’s Office of Human Resources is hosting the first of its “Healing and Moving Forward” seminars for faculty and staff.
Sessions, which are confidential and not open to the general public, will be facilitated by Health Advocate, a partner in the University’s Employee Assistance Program.
“This is an additional resource that Penn State is providing to its employees to help them deal with what constitutes a traumatic event,” said Norbert ‘Bert’ Alicea, a licensed psychologist and vice president of Health Advocate. “It’s being held to give them information and coping skills and to let them know that of the emotions they are feeling are normal reactions to abnormal events.”
Twelve 90-minute seminars are scheduled for Aug. 15 and 16 for University Park employees. Similar sessions will be made available at campuses away from University Park, at the request of the chancellor or senior leader, at a date and time convenient for each campus.
“Our employees are a critical part of Penn State, and their health and well-being are important to our University community,” said Susan Basso, associate vice president for Human Resources. “Many of them have been impacted by the issues of the last nine months. Some employees are struggling with stress and their emotional health. Although many may feel they can cope effectively on their own, and they may, I encourage everyone to attend one of the sessions. There is a great advantage to group discussions, which allow not only individuals, but the community as a whole, to share potential coping strategies.”
Sessions, which do not require registration, are available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the morning and evening both days for all University Park employees. Sessions are being offered in different locations and at various times to reach as many employees as possible. Information about the Aug. 15 and Aug. 16 sessions is available here.
Chancellors or senior leaders at other campuses may send a request to schedule similar sessions to Cassandra Kitko, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 814-865-0358.
If scheduled sessions don’t fit within employees’ schedules, they are encouraged to call Penn State’s Health Advocate EAP line at 866-79–2728 to speak one-on-one with a counselor.
In addition, Penn State’s Office of Student Affairs also has released resources for students who may be struggling with the impact of recent events. A host of information for students can be found here.
Employees also may find advice from the American Psychological Association (APA) helpful as they deal with their feelings and emotions related to what amounts to a traumatic event that could create stress, irritation and sometimes unpredictable feelings that may last if left unattended.
The following excerpted information, and additional details, can be found online in an APA publication titled “Managing Traumatic Stress: Tips for Recovering from Disasters and Other Traumatic Events:”
— There is not one “standard” pattern of reaction to the extreme stress of traumatic experiences. Some people respond immediately, while others have delayed reactions — sometimes months or even years later.
— Individuals with prolonged reactions that disrupt their daily functioning should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers help educate people about normal responses to extreme stress.
— There are a number of steps you can take to help restore emotional well-being and a sense of control following a traumatic experience, such as giving yourself time to adjust; asking for support from people who care about you; finding out about local support groups; avoiding major life decisions such as switching careers or jobs if possible; and engaging in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress.