Waves of Repercussions Will Follow Local Survivors of Vegas Shooting; How You Can Help

Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

The full repercussions of the Las Vegas mass shooting on Mammoth and Eastern Sierra residents might never be obvious but it will, inevitably, be profound nevertheless.
At least several dozen Eastside residents appear to have been at the concert or in Las Vegas the night of Oct. 1. At least a few of them were shot and/or injured during the shooting, although none fatally.
But the nature of the horrific attack, where 58 people had died as of Oct. 5, where more than 500 people were injured, some critically, makes it almost impossible that anyone at the event will walk away without some kind of trauma, according to local mental health experts. In a region of less than 40,000 people, several dozen people is a significant percent of the Eastside’s total population.
To make things worse, the inevitable repercussions to each person who was at the scene of the massacre will be the more pernicious because they will be almost completely invisible.
“It is almost impossible to wrap your head around something like this,” said Robin Roberts, the Mono County Behavioral Health director. “Your head goes into shock, you go into a lot of intense feeling that do not feel logical,” she said.
“Some people will come home and it might look like they have had no effects but there will be residual effects,” she said.
And, the whole thing was so senseless, it’s going to add another challenge for survivors.
“When you drive on the freeway, you can’t drive thinking you will have an accident every second,” she said, noting that driving on a freeway is statistically speaking, far more dangerous than the possibility of dying of a gunshot wound at the hand of a mass killer. “Those people don’t drive very long. So we learn to adapt, to block it out. But the truth is, you don’t go to a concert thinking of danger, you are not thinking like that. You are thinking, perhaps, that you shouldn’t drink too much. Then something happens in a place where you are at your most safe and innocent. It is a shattering experience.”
Many of those who attended the concert will come home with at least some degree of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), she said.
The effects will vary for everyone, but the common theme is that emotions will come up, often unconnected to logical thinking, and often, at unexpected times and in unexpected places.
The other word, she said, is ‘intense.’
People will be hit with waves of emotions and they will be incredibly vivid, incredibly strong, she said.
That’s even if it doesn’t look like the survivor is going through anything, she said.
Some will have to be sure all the doors and windows are locked, some will look and act and talk as if they have not been impacted at all, some will need to talk, some will not want to talk, she said.
But when the attention on the crisis diminishes, when the television cameras are gone and the pundits are no longer talking about Las Vegas, the trauma will still be there, she said.
It’s important for friends and family to think of the long term, she said and to get ready for that.
The best thing the local community can do is to listen; to try to not solve an unsolvable problem, to not try to fix an unfixable situation.
“Don’t say ‘you should not think about it, you should move on, you should go back to work,’” she said.
What people can do, what almost anyone can do, is simply listen.
“My advice to family and friends and loved ones is to try to make a wide space for people, a place and time for them to talk, “ she said. “It might be hard to hear, it might be hard for you to hear this, but it is best to just listen. “To offer advice, to offer ways to fix this, could just make it worse.”
There is an inevitable time frame for all trauma, she said, a time frame that cannot be rushed and is different for every person.
“Trauma has a process,” she said. “You have to give into it, you have to allow it it’s own time frame,” she said.
The county has the resources to provides mental health services to its residents, and there are also many private counselors and therapists in town (see list of resources, below).
“We do have private providers in town and we here (at the county behavioral health department) will also field calls, anything from people needing one conversation to normalize what they went through, or, if they need a longer time, we can provide that too, she said. “We can also give people a full list of resources that are available to them.”

Local resources:
• Mono County Behavioral Health can be reached at 760-924-1740 or use the After Hours Access and Referral Line at 1-800-687-1101 or email Robin Roberts at rroberts@mono.ca.gov. The office is located at 452 Old Mammoth Road on the third floor of the Sierra Center Mall (formerly known as the Shogun Mall). The department can provide a wide variety of mental health services and/or provide references to the right therapist or resource.

• Mammoth Hospital Grief Counseling Sessions: Mammoth Hospital hosts ongoing grief counseling sessions every second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at noon in the chapel at the hospital. The sessions are facilitated by Lori Ciccarelli, who is a certified spiritual guide specializing in grief counseling.

• Wild Iris Crisis Intervention and Management: Susi Baines from Wild Iris said that Wild Iris counselors are not only trained in domestic violence and assault, but are also trained in crisis intervention. “While the tragedy in Vegas had nothing to do with domestic violence or sexual assault, directly anyway, our counselors can start the process by doing some crisis intervention if someone is interested,” said Baines. “If we need to refer them out for longer term therapy we can certainly help with that as well.”
Call 877-873-7384 or go to wild-iris.org for more information.

• Oct. 13 Community Meeting: The Mammoth Lakes Police Department and the Town of Mammoth Lakes will be providing the services of a licensed therapist in a group setting to offer members of the community coping techniques and strategies for community members, in response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas. “Traumatic events can impact people who were not directly involved, but who may have known a victim or seen coverage of the event,” police said. The event will be Friday, Oct. 13, from 1-3 p.m. at Suite Z, the Mammoth Lakes Town Council Chambers, which is located in the Minaret Mall, on the second floor (above Vons and right above the Chocolate Factory). There will also be the opportunity for discussion and for questions. This event is open to any member of our community. Please RSVP hdegoey@townofmammothlakes.ca.gov. In order to accommodate everyone, the location may be moved, depending on response.

With additional reporting by Stacey Powells