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Supporting those who were on scene is a delicate dance

Boston and the larger community are struggling to cope with the impact of awful scenes of catastrophic injuries and terror. A friend writes to me for advice: “I have a close friend who has worked the medical tent for many Boston Marathons. He saw some ‘awful stuff’ when the tent was converted for triage. I think people are naturally curious, but friends initiating conversation repeatedly is probably not helpful. Do you have any advice for his well-meaning friends?”

I have some experience in disaster psychiatry, and so I wrote him back to say that the it is best for friends to understand that those on the scene were part of the collateral damage. While their presence there was a blessing for those who were injured, it makes them secondary casualties.

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