Like many Americans, we were personally affected by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the days following the attacks, we discussed ways on how to contribute to the relief efforts. 7-Dippity's specialty is creating custom educational materials and programs for schools, non-profit organizations, corporations and government agencies. Much of our work focuses on children. Our president, Elaine Sevin, noticed a gap in the effort to help children and families cope with the disaster. Although there was disaster material available, the information was generic, and not specific to the terrorist attacks. Mrs. Sevin suggested the creation of a guide that would help parents and children cope with their feelings resulting from the terrorist attacks, as well as provide pertinent information to counselors, teachers and other adults who interact with children.
Mrs. Sevin presented her idea to Dr. Annette La Greca, Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at the University of Miami, and a close, personal friend of the Sevin family. Dr. La Greca is a nationally recognized child psychology expert, who helped establish the American Psychological Association's Task Force on Children's Psychological Responses to Disasters in the early 1990's. Dr. La Greca agreed the idea had merit, and volunteered her time and expertise in the creation of the book along with Mrs. Sevin and her son, Scott Sevin.
Dr. La Greca contacted the BellSouth Foundation, who provided a grant for the printing and distribution of 50,000 copies of Helping America Cope. The books were printed and distributed within a few weeks. As word spread, requests began to pour in from all over the country. By January 2002, we had received unsolicited requests for over 2 million copies of Helping America Cope nationally. This is a testament to both the quality of our work, and the need for such material throughout the country.
Creation of the Helping America Cope Project
The Helping America Cope Project emerged as we began to coordinate our efforts with the many agencies and organizations we came in contact with. Because of the unexpected number of requests for copies, we started to organize our efforts with state departments of education, mental health agencies and relief organizations. We also began to coordinate with the many school systems and community-based organizations contacting us for copies of our material. As a result, we developed a nationwide network of individuals, agencies and organizations providing mental health support to children and families affected by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the war on terrorism. To further complement these efforts, the Helping America Cope project was created.
The main goals of the Helping America Cope Project are as follows: to provide copies of Helping America Cope material free of charge to those requesting; to support mental health efforts assisting communities and families directly affected by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; to promote the positive impacts of mental health and to identify and support other underserved areas of need as they emerge.
Provide Free Materials: Our goal, as has been from the start, is to provide copies of Helping America Cope material free of charge to those affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks and the ensuing war on terrorism. To this extent, 7-Dippity has made the material available for free download off our website - this is the best we can do in areas where we do not have a sponsor. We are actively searching for funding, and have been in contact with community-based organizations, philanthropic foundations, government and relief agencies in hopes that they will underwrite the cost of copies for those requesting. We have been awarded grants by Freddie Mac, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the BellSouth Pioneers and the BellSouth Foundation. The Pennsylvania State Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Department of Education partnered to sponsor our material for residents in the state of Pennsylvania. Some counties in New York, through Project Liberty, have sponsored copies for residents in their communities. Some United Ways have also underwritten the cost of materials. The Helping America Cope Project, through Youth Environmental Programs, Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, has also been receiving donations from companies and individuals.
Support relief efforts: Our work through past 7-Dippity projects has provided us with years of experience in developing and implementing programs in schools and communities. We are using that experience and knowledge to assist agencies in developing and implementing programs in their communities in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Also, there are many efforts underway to provide support. Unfortunately, in a number of instances, there has been a lack of coordination between agencies with similar goals. Due to the nature of our project, we are in contact with many of these agencies and organizations, and assist in establishing communication and cooperation between them whenever possible.
Promote Mental Health: We have been doing our best to promote the importance of mental health - particularly for children - whose needs are often overlooked in the wake of a disaster. There has generally been a "stigma" surrounding mental health, and a downplaying of its importance in the overall health of an individual. Even now, when support is needed more than ever, states across the country are slashing the budgets of mental health departments and school districts are dismissing school counselors. A "silver lining" that has emerged from this terrible tragedy is that an opportunity has arisen to bring about a change in attitudes towards mental health. The fact that our material has been so widely used and requested, and in many areas has bridged the gap between communities, schools and mental health providers, shows that people are seeking support, and proves that we can be effective in reaching a wide range of audiences.
Identify Areas of Need and Produce Additional Materials: Efforts to provide support to children and families affected by the terrorist attacks and the war on terrorism will continue for many years to come. The needs of those affected and those providing support will change over time. We continue to identify underserved areas of need and collaborate with other agencies and organizations in developing additional materials/curriculum to fill those gaps. For example, 7-Dippity is currently engaged in a suicide prevention project for World Trade Center responders funded by the Twin Towers Fund.
Some Project Highlights
The Annie E. Casey Foundation awarded a grant to our Project, sponsoring 50,000 copies of Helping America Cope for Washington DC Public Schools. A conference was held the weekend of April 20th for DC school counselors and administrators, sponsored in part by SAMHSA. Dr. Annette La Greca, co-author of Helping America Cope, was invited to the conference where she lectured about the book and its activities. Copies were then distributed to elementary and middle schools throughout the DC area and disseminated by school counselors and psychologists to the students.
The United Way's September 11th Fund helped to sponsor 20,000 copies of Helping America Cope for the Fire Department of New York City. A special edition was created specifically for the families of the firefighters and EMS personnel. Federal Express sponsored the shipping of the books and the United Way of New York City has donated storage space. The Counseling Service Unit of the FDNY is overseeing distribution of the books.
The State of Pennsylvania, through the Department of Education and the Department of Public Welfare, co-sponsored copies of Helping America Cope for Pennsylvania residents. Copies are now available in both English and Spanish editions, and are being distributed by the Bureau of Community and Student Services and the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
The United Way of Long Island sponsored 10,000 copies of Helping America Cope for schools and residents on Long Island, New York. 1,600 copies were donated to the NOVA (National Organization for Victim Assistance) team at Ground Zero, for use with the workers, and families of those working at Ground Zero, including members of the FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority Police. Federal Express sponsored the shipping of the books.
On June 10, 2002, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) and Senator John Corzine (NJ) held a Congressional Field Hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in New York City to address the unmet mental health needs of children who were affected by the 9/11 attacks. Dr. Kerry Kelly, FDNY Chief Medical Officer, presented the FDNY version of the Helping America Cope book at the hearing, where the book was very well received. Senator Clinton, at a later press conference, held up a copy of the Helping America Cope book as an example of a positive, effective tool being used to assist children and parents in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
In July, the Helping America Cope Project received a grant from the BellSouth Pioneers to provide 25,000 copies of the "anniversary" edition of Helping America Cope to New York City schoolchildren. Copies were distributed to schools throughout New York City, many of whom had children that were directly affected by the attacks.
The United Way of Morris County, New Jersey sponsored 5,000 copies of the "anniversary" edition for their community. Books were supplied to area residents, schools and agencies providing mental health support.
The United Way of Rhode Island sponsored copies of the "anniversary" edition for every school counselor in the state of Rhode Island. Copies were distributed with the assistance of the Rhode Island School Counselors Association. The books were very well received.
Project Liberty and the New York State Office of Mental Health sponsored 70,000 English and 5,000 Spanish copies of the "anniversary" edition of Helping America Cope for Project Liberty work in New York. Some of the areas receiving copies included Nassau, Suffolk, Orange, Westchester, Rockland and Sullivan counties.
Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, Connecticut sponsored 15,000 copies of the "anniversary" edition for their relief work. Copies were made available to schools, mental health workers and families in the area. Catholic Charities donated 650 copies to the Connecticut School Counselors Association, plus distribution costs, so that every school counselor in the State of Connecticut would have at least one copy available.
Freddie Mac sponsored 650,000 copies of the "anniversary" edition for the entire Washington DC region, including parts of Maryland and Virginia. Copies were made available in both English and Spanish. Along with the United Way of the National Capital Area, training for school-based mental health workers and other adults who work with children was provided free of charge. Copies are being distributed in schools and communities in conjunction with the Metro DC 9/11 Community Recovery Network, mental health agencies and other Project partners. The books have been extremely helpful in helping children and families cope with the recent "sniper" shootings in the DC area.
7-Dippity is currently engaged in a depression/suicide prevention project, funded by the Twin Towers Fund, for first responders to the World Trade Center attacks. Working directly with the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY), New York City Police Department (NYPD), Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) and Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York City (REMSCO), the materials being developed are based on a peer-to-peer approach, using the responders themselves as the experts relating their experiences and coping advice to their respective colleagues, families and friends. Interspersed with additional advice and strategies, the material will be distributed throughout each Department and incorporated into a variety of support programs.
NEED FOR MATERIALS
Research after previous disasters shows that children and adults can suffer from psychological effects resulting from the traumatic event. Indeed, many people across the United States have been experiencing emotional distress as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks or the aftermath. Further, added stressors such as military action in Afghanistan, war in Iraq and continued warnings and threats of future terrorist attacks have complicated matters.
In many cases, efforts to assist those suffering from distress have been inadequate, particularly in serving vulnerable populations such as children, whose needs typically tend to be overlooked after a disaster. By July 31, 2002, we had received requests for over four million copies of Helping America Cope. This underscores the tremendous need for quality material to assist parents and other adults who work with children (e.g., teachers, counselors). Specifically, there is a need to provide adults with information on recognizing signs of distress, positive coping strategies and understanding what to do and where to go if a child needs further assistance. Helping America Cope provides this necessary information, and is an effective tool utilized by thousands of parents, paraprofessionals and mental health professionals across the country.
HOW TO DONATE
Tax deductible donations or grants can be made to the Helping America Cope Project through Youth Environmental Programs, Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, or through the University of Miami, one of our partners in the Project.