Oregon District Mass Shooting: Coping with emotional trauma

DAYTON — It's perfectly normal for those who survived the Oregon District mass shooting to still be struggling with the emotional trauma they suffered, says Centerville psychologist Dr. Kathy Platoni.

Those symptoms, Platoni says, can return with vengeance as the community marking one year since the tragedy.

>> Oregon District Shooting: click here to read the stories from News Center 7 as we mark one year since the shooting

“Just the trauma of seeing something that’s very much akin to a battlefield in the combat zone,” Platoni said.

Witnesses have described East Fifth Street as looking like a battlefield just after 1:00 a.m. Sun., Aug. 4th, 2019.

Someone was shooting. People were screaming. Hundreds ran for their lives. And, some witnessed the worst, family members and close friends dying right in front of them.

Platoni said it is normal for anyone who was there to experience the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Feeling very jumpy, easily startled, feeling very guarded, feeling very unsafe that this could happen in a community such as ours. It’s part of the human condition to experience and re-experience these symptoms, these emotions,” she said.

Platoni said those feelings can intensify with any reminder of the tragedy, including the date on the calendar.

“People who are exposed to trauma of this magnitude often experience shock, horror, tremendous feelings of grief and loss, significant survivor guilt,” Platoni said.

Platoni is part of the Southwest Ohio Critical Incident Stress Management team. Within hours, she and others provided emergency intervention to the Dayton police officers who killed the shooter.

To this day, other officers from Dayton and surrounding departments who rushed in to control the crowd and help the wounded have also sought counsel for their unresolved trauma.

"The frustration and powerlessness, that there was so much they couldn't do to save lives and to get the wounded to hospitals for emergency treatment sooner than they did," Platoni said.

The first step, Platoni said, is for survivors to acknowledge it has been one year and to remember the victims. One way to do that is through shared support with others who have lived through the experience.

"Those bonds are probably forged for life and it's so important to try to find those people whether it's family members and friends or a mental health professional," Platoni said.

Platoni said it is never too late to seek professional help. In fact, the time is now.

"If you've been struggling with these burdens for a year, it's time to do something because this can mean a lifelong time of suffering. These memories will never go away completely," Platoni said.

There are a number of community resources available to help those who need counseling. It’s as simple as calling “211,’ the United Way Helplink, to get started.

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