Community Helped Heal the ‘Invisible Injuries’ of Boston Marathon Bombing

By its very nature, terrorism—the use of violence to intimidate and induce fear—causes both physical and psychological damage. In 2017, the late Richard Beinecke, a professor of public and healthcare administration at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School, changed that recently by publishing a study on “The Mental Health Response to the Boston Bombing: A Three-Year Review.”

“When two terrorist bombs shattered lives at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, the spirit of community was not broken, and the outpouring of public support has been a significant factor in healing psychic wounds,” Beinecke wrote in an op-ed for WBUR.

Beinecke studied the “invisible injuries” left by the Boston Marathon terrorist attack and found that, while the heroics of first responders and medical professionals have been justly celebrated, community also played a critical and perhaps underappreciated role in helping survivors heal from less visible wounds like post-traumatic stress disorder and hearing loss.

“While professional counseling was important,” he found, so was “the help of ‘perfect strangers,’ and the wide variety of supports provided by individuals and organizations in the community.”

A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

Law professor Renee Landers, director of Suffolk’s health and biomedical law concentration, is a sought-after source when it comes to news coverage of the ongoing debate over healthcare in the U.S. Meanwhile, Landers also weighed in on President Trump’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration, arguing in an op-ed that Scott Gottlieb’s penchant for deregulation could harm American patients.

“Most consumers lack the information or expertise to assess the risks and benefits of drugs and medical devices,” says Landers. “Clever marketing could entice some patients to forego using products known to be effective in favor of ones that are less effective and possibly more expensive. Evaluating drugs is not the same as deciding whether one prefers Prego or Ragu.”

Justice League, Unite

With the help of a $286,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department, Suffolk University professors Erika Gebo and Brenda Bond are currently studying how cities can best work together to reduce youth and gang violence using the Comprehensive Gang Model approach in four Massachusetts cities. Over three years, Worcester and Fall River will adopt intervention efforts compatible with the Comprehensive Gang Model, while Lowell and New Bedford will act as comparison sites.

Gebo is an associate professor of sociology and director of the graduate program in Crime & Justice Studies, while Bond is chair of the Institute for Public Service and associate professor of public administration at Sawyer Business School—it’s a true cross-discipline collaboration.

The pair co-edited the 2012 book Looking Beyond Suppression: Community Responses to Gang Violence, in addition to many other publications. Gebo has also been researching how a public health framework can be applied to gang violence, and recently published her findings in the journal Preventative Medicine Reports.

“My research has clearly shown that, compared with other youth, those most involved in violence and gangs are those with more risk factors, such as high levels of victimization and
exposure trauma and lack of exposure to institutions that build upon their assets,” Gebo says.