Monday, March 24, 2014

Text Message to Passenger Families a 'Secondary Trauma,' Grief Experts Say --- Since the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines jet more than two weeks ago, passengers' relatives — and much of the planet — have been gripped by uncertainty about the fate of those aboard, whipsawed by conflicting reports and speculation. -- On Monday, some received stunning news via text message: Malaysia Airlines told the relatives that the plane "has been lost and that none of those on board have survived." -- It was a shocking moment — perhaps even more so for the way it was delivered. Malaysia Airlines said it informed "the majority of the families" in person and by phone. But experts in disaster response and grief questioned the humanity of the text-message notification. -- Told of the text, Karla Vermeulen, a professor of psychology and the assistant director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at the State University of New York at New Paltz, exclaimed "Oh, wow." -- "That strikes me as efficient, but very inappropriate," Vermeulen said. "To break that big a piece of news, that devastating, by text seems pretty tone deaf and insensitive." -- A text message, she explained, is incapable of communicating emotion no matter what words are used in the text. Human beings have evolved to sense and communicate emotion with our faces, primarily our eyes. Research has shown that texting is no substitute. -- That's one reason why, for example, the military notifies families of a loved one's death in person. In an airline disaster in the U.S., relatives typically get personal attention from an airline employee, Red Cross volunteer or other official. Some airlines run drills for such an eventuality. - More, Brian Alexander, at:


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