The rush to provide ‘psychological first aid’ in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting

Denise Truscello | Getty Images
People embrace during a vigil on the Las Vegas strip for the victims of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings on October 2, 2017, in Las Vegas.

The morning after 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on 22,000 concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay Resorts promptly opened a crisis center, asking certified trauma counselors to volunteer and go to “Circus Circus – Ballroom D,” according to a tweet. The makeshift crisis center was open to all victims, family members and anyone else directly impacted by the events, including Mandalay Bay guests and employees.

“Psychological first aid,” or early mental health response, after the aftermath of horror and heartbreak is relatively new. In the first two weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings on December 14, 2012, which left 29 people dead, more than 800 people visited the main crisis counseling center in Newtown, Connecticut. Within 24 hours after the June 12, 2016, nightclub shooting in Orlando, which claimed 49 lives, local counselors began circulating a spreadsheet, asking practitioners to sign up for shifts to offer therapy and support to victims, their families and community members. In a few days 650 practitioners signed up.

The Las Vegas shooting on Sunday night turned out to be the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, leaving 59 dead and 527 injured. For nearly 15 minutes shots rained down on the attendees, who had nowhere to escape. What was to be an evening of country music and celebration turned into a night of bloody terror, leaving those affected — whether directly or vicariously — at risk of severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Leave a Reply