Psychosocial support has a significant part in the aftermath of the act of violence in Kuopio

Anna-Katri Hänninen
Image: Anna-Katri Hänninen

Trained psychosocial support volunteers of the Finnish Red Cross were at the scene within thirty minutes of being called.

The Kuopio emergency response centre was alerted about an act of violence at the facilities of the Savo Vocational College at 12.29 on Tuesday 1 October.
The Voluntary Rescue Service preparedness duty worker was soon informed about the severity of the event, and the preparedness alert went out to all psychosocial support volunteers in the Northern Savonia region at 13.14.
Of the volunteers, 13 persons were available to come to the meeting place immediately, and 7 responded they would be available slightly later.

From a barber’s chair to the crisis point

Savonia-Karelia region volunteer leader Osmo Tolonen was sitting in a barber’s chair in Iisalmi when he was informed about what had happened. He waited for his haircut to be complete, sat in his car, and drove to Kuopio.
The drive took one hour, during which time the Red Cross psychosocial support crisis point had already been opened at the Kuopio branch facilities at Puijonkatu 9.
– We immediately began to find out where the people who need help are, prepared to go to the school environment on Wednesday, and recruited more volunteers, Tolonen says.

Psychosocial support volunteers were alerted from Northern Savonia, Northern Karelia, Central Finland, Kainuu, Southern Savonia, and Southern Karelia. Cooperation with the police, the city’s crisis groups, and the Social Emergency Services was close.

Return to the school

On Wednesday 2 October at 8.00, a group of psychosocial support volunteers joined the crisis groups of the City of Kuopio and the Vocational College at the facilities of the Savo Vocational College.

At the school, the volunteers met with a classroom of students whom the attack was targeted at. The atmosphere was quiet and shocked. Tolonen is pleased that experienced volunteers participated who were able to act correctly in the situation.

– We were in a tight spot at the school. There were not one or two people, or a few families, who needed help. There were many. The shock and fear were also visible on the faces of the school’s staff. It was like a waterfall we had to pass through. The need for help was immense.

The preparedness group of psychologists arrived

At 11.45 on Thursday 3 October, the Deputy Mayor of Kuopio filed an authority request for inviting the Finnish Red Cross preparedness group of psychologists to Kuopio. Three psychologists arrived that evening, and five more for Friday morning.

The psychologists were present at the Herman shopping centre on Thursday evening, where personal belongings which had been left at the centre were distributed.

– The return to the site was traumatic for many, which is why the presence of professional psychologists was important, Tolonen says.

On Friday 4 October and the weekend after, the psychologists from the preparedness group participated in many kinds of group meetings with the teachers, volunteers, and the school’s social and health care staff, discussed, mapped the need for further support, and organised debriefing sessions for the Red Cross volunteers, as well.

The psychosocial support volunteers ended their work on Sunday evening, 6 October. The psychologists will continue for as long as necessary.

Help through the disaster relief fund

Psychosocial support volunteers of the Finnish Red Cross are quickly available to provide crisis help for anyone who needs it and to support the authorities in many kinds of assignments, which is particularly important when an accident or act of violence touches a large group of people.

In Kuopio, the volunteers carried out approximately 1,100 hours of work within a period of 6 days, during which time psychosocial support was provided to a total of approximately 400 people. The Finnish Red Cross thanks every volunteer.

Training volunteers, maintaining the operations of the preparedness group of psychologists, and coordinating the Voluntary Rescue Service are all made possible through the Finnish Red Cross disaster relief fund and the hunger day donations.