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Mental health response, resources available after traumatic event

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 5:56 PM CST
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GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (WBAY) - Amid all of the law enforcement response to the Fox River Mall shooting, one volunteer team was specifically there to assist people with the emotional toll traumatic events can cause.

Now the Fox Cities Victim Crisis Response Team and other Fox Valley organizations are prepared to continue that care.

“Overall I think people were just shocked,” said Emily Lewis, Executive Director of the crisis team. “When your security or safety is questioned I think it takes a little while for peoples’ minds to wrap around what that really means.”

The Fox Cities Victim Crisis Response Team was called in by law enforcement to help people evacuated after the Fox River Mall shooting.

Lewis says 18 volunteers from the nonprofit were on scene for hours providing trauma-informed care.

“We like to say [it’s] like an emotional CPR,” said Lewis. “So we really help victims express emotions, know what’s expected to come next, and to feel safe.”

Lewis says that initial response is critical to lessen potential long-term effects like PTSD.

“Especially after an incident like yesterday when safety is a concern, getting them to a safe location and just letting them express emotions is critical in lessening the long-term effects that these types of situations have on individuals,” said Lewis.

But their work doesn’t stop after the initial call.

“Our ultimate goal is to get them connected to those experts in the field,” said Lewis.

“When you’ve had a traumatic event you’re not just going to get over it with talking about once,” said Dr. Tracy Siebers. “It’s that continual talking about it, re-processing it, and having a safe supportive person to talk with you.”

Dr. Siebers is the Samaritan Counseling Center’s Clinical Director. She says a shooting can have a far-reaching emotional toll, even affecting people beyond those who were in the mall at the time.

“It impacts a lot of people,” said Dr. Siebers. “It’s impacting family members and community members who may have had a spouse or significant other, a friend, a child working at the mall, or who had friends were at the mall at the time.”

Dr. Siebers says one of the most important things to do is to talk about what happened.

“If they can start to confront what they’ve been going though and what they went through, little by little and small doses and small steps, it’s really going to help them,” said Dr. Siebers.

She says in children or adults persistent night terrors, difficulties concentrating, getting withdrawn, and avoiding conversations about a traumatic event they may need to seek professional help.

“I always like to reach out to people to realize ‘Hey, this was something pretty serious, it’s not small’ if people are really starting to struggle let’s help them and come in to see us,” said Dr. Siebers.

She adds that some people who were close to the incident may feel guilty, like they could’ve done more - which is normal. But she encourages people to go easy on themselves and try to focus on the positives.

“We all have an idea of what we should’ve done or what we could’ve done but when we’re confronted with that event all things can change is what I would say. It’s never going to be the same as you quite expected,” said Dr. Siebers “But boy, it was just wonderful to hear about all the different companies that took people down into basements and back rooms and I was like ‘Oh my God, I’m so happy to hear of all the people that were there helping.’”

Lewis says they are working with Fox River Mall to follow-up with employees.

“We want to be there to ease them back into the transition, to talk about what they experienced, to be able to have the mall give them an idea of what they’re doing to support them in their safety moving forward,” said Lewis.

Lewis says they do provide personalized resource recommendations to those they help on scenes. But, in an event like a shooting, she suspects some may have left instead of getting immediate emotional care.

“Especially in a shooting situation, your instinct is to get out. It’s not to stick around to talk to someone and get services and get a folder of information,” said Lewis. “It’s to get to safety and remove yourself from the situation. I think that’s a lot of what took place [Sunday].”

She says people can still reach out to the Fox Cities Crisis Response team if they’d like to learn more about the mental resources in their area. CLICK HERE for contact information or a list of resources.

Samaritan Counseling provides a wellness screening and is accepting new clients. Find the office’s contact information HERE.

Dr. Siebers also recommends people to check out the N.E.W Mental Health Connection website, which can help you locate mental health care providers nearby.

The crisis response team, as a nonprofit, does accept monetary donations and items like blankets and tissues. If you’d like to support the program CLICK HERE.

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