With the Christmas and New Year's holiday approaching, the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center encourages residents, visitors and responders affected by the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting on 1 October to reach out for emotional and mental health support.
"People who have suffered traumatic loss say the first year is always the hardest, including the first anniversaries of special events and holidays," said Dr. Megan Freeman, a psychologist with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child and Family Services. "For those who survived the shooting with or without physical injury, the holidays also can present emotional challenges. Rather than feeling the joy of the holiday season, survivors may feel withdrawn or anxious and prefer to avoid parties and large gatherings. Loved ones can assist survivors by being supportive of their choices during the holiday season."
The Vegas Strong Resiliency Center is a resource hub for anyone who is struggling with the traumatic effects of the 1 October shooting or knows someone who is including people injured in the shooting, their family members, responders and citizens who assisted victims, and bystanders and hotel workers who witnessed the aftermath of the incident. The first step is to fill out the resiliency center's intake form, which is posted online at www.VegasStrongRC.org, to assess needs and services you may be eligible for. The center also can be contacted by phone at (702) 455-2433 (AIDE) or toll-free at 1-833-299-AIDE, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your name and contact information will remain
confidential and will only be used to assist you with services.
"We understand from talking with experts that one thing many people who have suffered from mass violence say is helpful to them over time in dealing with the aftermath of an incident is connecting with other survivors," said Teresa Etcheberry, assistant manager of Clark County Social Service and resiliency center coordinator. "We are gauging interest in offering survivor support groups, and we also are working on establishing a network of services we can refer to people to who live in cities and state outside the Las Vegas Valley."
Mental health experts stress that people grieve and cope with trauma in different ways, and reminders of 1 October can hit people at different times and in unexpected circumstances such as hearing a particular song, watching news stories about other violent events, or seeing and hearing fireworks or other loud noises.
After hours, anyone experiencing emotional distress related to a disaster incident is encouraged to call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. The helpline, managed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is a multi-lingual resource that provides counseling and support to people 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. You also can reach the service by texting "TalkWithUs" at 66746. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline of 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) also is a 24-hour resource managed by the agency.
Suggestions that may be helpful to people who are struggling emotionally include:
- Stay in your normal routine as much as possible. To cope with a holiday or special event, plan to be around people who care about you. Don't be alone.
- Remember that feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety and depression are normal after a traumatic event. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings or reach out for help.
- If you are struggling with memories or reminders of the violent event, counseling can offer some coping strategies.
- It is not unusual for survivors of a traumatic event to feel guilt. One way experts recommend processing this emotion is to find a way to honor those who died or were injured by remembering them in private, as part of your faith community, or by doing an activity that has meaning to you in the community at large.
Additional tips for coping with stress and anxiety include:
- Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
- Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
- Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. .
- Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
- Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
- Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn't possible, be proud of however close you get.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you're feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
Clark County's You Tube channel also features an interview with Stephanie Woodard, a licensed psychologist with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, discussing difficulties people may experience following 1 October, coping strategies, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The interview is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSMnSut6WHM.