Following the Sunday shooting in the Oregon District, mental health professionals say it is normal to feel anxious, angry or grieving, even for people who weren’t there.
Mary Gambill, Five Rivers Health Centers behavioral health manager, said a good place to start is acknowledging to your self what you are feeling, such as feeling anxious about driving downtown or feeling more generally anxious, especially when it is so close in time to when the tragedy happened.
“It’s OK. It’s the body’s natural response to situations that have happened that are completely out of our control,” Gambill said.
The mass shooting, which left 10 people dead including the shooter, meant many area residents lost family and friends, while others were injured, witnessed the deaths or are dealing with the loss of a feeling of safety because of the violence on a typically safe and popular block on East Fifth Street.
To help people process what happened, there are a range of mental health resources available. This includes free mental health first aid for adults affected by the mass shooting, with staff available at Wright State University’s Ellis Institute for Human Development or at the Reach Out Clinic on Miami Valley Hospital’s campus.
Jeff Cigrang, associate professor of psychology at Wright State University, said the free walk-in service will help people talk to someone immediately. Similar to the model that the Red Cross uses, professionals can then listen to people who come in, provide brief advice or ways to cope, and link someone to services if they need it.
“People are resilient. Most people are going to recover from this and be OK,” said Cigrang.
But some people may have a harder time finding their new normal and may need to seek professional help. “Some people tend to get stuck in their recovery and it kind of stops,” he said.
Those most at risk are the ones who suffered the most trauma exposed to death or injury or “people who thought I am going to die at this moment,” he said. Also vulnerable are those who were already dealing with some other kind of loss or challenge and “this is kind of a very big straw in a series of very different things,” he said.
He said if there is a high level of distress that persists for a week or two, “that may be a good sign they need help.” If they seek help, he added, it’s best to make sure to ask for a provider with expertise in trauma-related conditions.
Montgomery County Alcohol & Drug and Mental Health Services sent crisis responders to walk the streets and are carrying bright green backpacks. ADAMHS told the Oregon District Business Association that if asked or invited by business owners, the workers will come into establishments but otherwise will stay outside. The crisis responders will still be out Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
ADAMHS is also planning to make other outreach services available, such as one-on-one support, group educational sessions, connection to Victim Witness Advocates and other outreach.
Gambill said it is important to make sure you take care of yourself, whether that’s taking a break and watching TV, going for a walk, or sitting down with family or friends.
“It’s just paying attention to what the body needs and tapping into that,” Gambill said.
She said different people are going to grieve in different ways. And while people can process grief so it’s not always at the front of their mind, Gambill said people typically still feel grief lifelong over a loss.
“Often times when people are grieving they will run into someone who will say ‘You know, that happened a month ago. It’s time to get over it,’” she said. “It’s important to know that not everyone grieves the same. There’s no timeline and everyone is different.”
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