Mental Health Tips for Coping with the Orlando Massacre

People embrace during a candlelight vigil at a memorial service for the victims of the shooting at the Pulse gay night club i
People embrace during a candlelight vigil at a memorial service for the victims of the shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, Florida, June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

Sadness, fear, helplessness, and anxiety are all natural responses to the shooting in Orlando. You may be feeling all of these things or you may be feeling something completely different. Everyone feels and reacts to hate crimes and terrorist attacks differently and we want you to know there's no right or wrong way to feel right now. But, if you feel overwhelmed by the event, we've put together a list of things that may help you cope with whatever you're feeling.

Tips for Dealing with Disaster (adapted from the National Association of Social Workers, Coping with Terrorism):
  1. Identify and acknowledge the feelings that you may be experiencing. Understand that these feelings are a normal reaction to this event.
  2. Remember that you have overcome adversity and trauma in the past. Try to remember what you did that helped you overcome the fear and helplessness in that situation. If it makes sense, do those things now.
  3. Talk to others about your fears. Reach out to people who make you feel safe. If you want to be around people who are feeling similar things to you and you're in a city that has vigils or other gatherings about the Orlando shooting, attend these events.
  4. On the other hand, if you do not feel like talking, that is alright too. Some people find exercise and other active ways of releasing feelings more helpful.
  5. Make efforts to maintain a usual routine.
  6. Realize that the things you're feeling now are not permanent. They will change. Also, try to be realistic about the time it takes to feel better. It may take a while and that's okay.
  7. Recognize that the nature of terrorist attacks and hate crimes create fear and uncertainty about the future. Continue to do enjoyable things. Avoid preoccupation with the things you cannot control to the extent that they prevent you from living your normal life. If you are unable to avoid preoccupation, consider seeing a mental health provider.
  8. Limit exposure to media coverage. By getting some distance from the event, by turning off the television or not logging onto Facebook as much, you give yourself a chance to catch our breath and refocus our attention.
  9. During times of stress, people who have depression and other mental illnesses may see their condition worsen. These people should contact their mental health care provider, if they feel it is necessary. If you don't have a mental health care provider and are in New York City. Consider becoming a patient of Apicha Community Health Center.

Statement by Apicha Community Health Center CEO, Therese Rodriguez:
Like you, at Apicha Community Health Center we grieve our dead and injured brothers and sisters--this weekend's victims of a heinous act of violence. Like you, we are sorting through our emotions, in what seems like a futile attempt to make sense of an act of hate and terror. The sadness. The anger. The helplessness. The fear.

Like you, our dull grief sharpens into something very real as details of the tragedy emerge. Our hearts ache as we learn the names and see the young, smiling faces of the men and women gathered to celebrate Puerto Rican Pride at Pulse Nightclub. They remind us of our patients, our friends, and ourselves.

We remember last year at this time we were celebrating momentous victories for the LGBT community and the milestones reached by steadily breaking down the barriers that marginalize us.

Just as we reached the height of intense joyful moments from last year's Supreme Court's decision on marriage equality, this weekend's tragic events show that those victories can easily be snatched away and bring us down the depths of pain and sadness. But as we have always done in the past, we will not allow the senseless loss of those who died and those who continue to fight for their lives in the hospital's operating rooms to be in vain. We have gone this far, we must go on.

While this without a doubt is a hate crime directed at the LGBT community. It is as much an assault on everyone who believes in freedom, diversity and an inclusive society. This was a direct challenge to every civil rights victory and an affront to everyone who believes in the intrinsic humanity in all people.

As time passes and our grief subsides, we must refocus our efforts to achieve equality for everyone. All people of different sexual orientations, different gender identities, different races, and different religions must come together to continue to protect the victories won after years of struggle. The push back against those who peddle hate and division will be as vehement as the sound and impact of those assault weapons. We must go on. Now is not the time for hatred. Now is the time to turn and embrace each other and offer acceptance, compassion, and love. Now is the time to unite.