On Sunday, June 12th, many of us learned of another shooting, this time at a gay bar in Orlando. Over the next few days there will be several discussions about this incident from different perspectives: violence, terrorism, minority groups, LGBTQ, homophobia, gun control, etc. No matter where we stand on any of these issues, the fact remains that someone killed a number of people in a gay bar, and left many others wounded, some still fighting for their lives. Those are the physical signs of this violent act. What may unfortunately go unseen however, are the psychological effects of this tragedy. Many survivors will be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, and will need support and counseling to cope with the memories of that experience.

For those of us who were not present, although not directly involved, we also share the pain, and may have our own psychological responses. Let us not minimize the impact of secondary stress, or vicarious trauma. As we remain glued to our television screens or to social media trying to make sense of what has happened, we may begin to feel a sense of deep sadness, fear, anger and hopelessness. We may begin to feel distress as we imagine others’ pain and suffering. Although we may live far away from Orlando, Florida, we can still feel traumatized.

If you are experiencing any of the above mentioned feelings in response to what took place in Orlando, it is important to exercise self-care: reach out to friends and family or any support network to which you belong. You may want to contact a mental health counselor to help you process your feelings. Recognize that your feelings are real. Give yourself time to grieve. Take a break from the television and social media. Exercise. Listen to soothing music.

Here are some resources that are available: We encourage people in need to use the (SAMSHA) disaster/distress helpline at . In addition the National Child Traumatic Stress Network has provided information to assist those dealing with catastrophic mass violence  .

If you are a young person living in Calvert, Charles or St. Mary’s counties, and would like to speak to a counselor to help you process your reaction to this incident, feel free to contact the Youth Services Bureau at 301-645-1837.

To our counselors, be on the lookout for signs of secondary trauma that clients may be experiencing, and of course, there is no need to remind you of the skills that are needed to help them process their feelings.  You are experts at helping others.

To other employees and board members, if you come across a client, a friend, a family member, or a co-worker who is having a difficult time coping with this incident, please take some time to help them process without all the drama of the incident, or suggest mental health counseling.  Be on the lookout for signs of violence, hatred and bigotry, as well as signs of indifference and lack of sensitivity. We remain a caring and loving people in spite of the negativity that some may choose to preach. I encourage all of us to search for and find the best within ourselves and in each other.

We offer our deepest condolences to the friends and families of all those who lost their lives in this shooting.

Thanks you

Laurel James