Local group offers tips on dealing with tragedy

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As shock waves rattle the metro area and entire nation following a shooting that left at least 12 dead and dozens more wounded July 20 at the Century 16 Movie Theatre in Aurora, the emotional stress for those directly or indirectly involved can be extremely high.

Carolyn Moershel, director of development with Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network, said that is completely normal and to be expected.

“Whether they were in the theater at the time or not, there is no doubt a lot of stress,” Moershel said. “Even people watching on TV can feel stress; there is an emotional response whether it occurs immediately, tomorrow or sometime in the future.”

Moershel cautioned that stress can take a lot of forms, and that people may need to take more time for personal reflection as well as be cognizant of loved ones who may need a helping hand or someone to listen. She said that something like this can be especially difficult for younger people to digest and that they should not hesitate to reach out for help if they need someone to talk to.

“Following a disaster, people will respond in different ways, all of which are normal,” she said. “There are several ways emotional distress may appear: extreme changes in activity, isolation or withdrawal, overly tearful, irritability or anger, feeling hopeless, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, frequent sleep problems, upset stomach, violence toward self or others, increased alcohol or substance abuse, feeling overwhelmed, as well as emotional numbness or jumpiness.”

Moershel said it is also normal in a situation like this for people to lose their sense of personal safety, which can result in a feeling of being violated.

“This may cause children and adults to question how they see the world, creating a sense of numbness, anger, hurt, shock or frustration,” she said. “We may need more connections with family, friends and significant others in our lives. Your loved ones from other parts of the state or country also may want to connect with you.”

With facilities available in Littleton, Inverness, Castle Rock and Parker, Moershel said anybody who would like to find a counselor to work with face to face can call 303-730-8858. For those who are more comfortable speaking with someone by phone, there is a national disaster distress help line at 800-985-5990 that offers multilingual crisis support. People can also text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 at no charge to start a conversation over text.

“As everyone is we are incredibly saddened by these events, and want to offer our condolences certainly and our assistance wherever we can be useful,” Moershel said.

For a list of resources and tips, including how to help children cope in a time of tragedy such as this, people are encouraged to visit the ADMHN website at www.admhn.org/Resources/HumanServices/CopingwithTragedy.aspx.