In Her Words: The Counselor

June 28 2013, 11:45 AM

Dr. Mara Kailin, clinical psychologist and a program director at the Aurora Mental Health Center

Typically, after something like the Aurora theater shooting, there is a period of shock when people are either able to articulate the details of what happened and don’t show any emotion, or they simply look shell-shocked. Eventually, people have to start feeling those emotions—fear, sadness, anger—and start working through them.

The most common reaction is re-experiencing the trauma. Another big category is generally feeling nervous or on edge or jumpy—being worried about your own safety, the safety of the people you care about, or the safety of the people in your community. That was pretty prominent in the days and months after the shooting here. People have to remember that there are a lot of different ways to experience a traumatic event; some of those are vicariously. We have so much access to very vivid information, and that has a strong impact. I discourage people from watching too much news coverage because it can cause some traumatic symptoms in people even if they weren’t there. Everyone wondered, “Is our community safe?” We could all identify with the idea of being in a movie theater; what’s supposed to be a leisurely time with friends and family—that was so disrupted. It causes us to question some fundamental things in our lives.

A lot of these reactions are common and normal. Many people who experience a trauma can work through it on their own and can learn how to recover and cope. But if the feelings and reactions start to get in the way of what you need to do day to day for a long period of time, that’s when you want to think about getting help.

A year is really not that long for people to realize they’re still having problems—or to start having problems. Something like an anniversary can bring it to the surface in a way that causes people who didn’t have problems before to start experiencing them. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy; you shouldn’t be ashamed. There’s no one way to feel. People need to put in place the things that will help them to feel good, so they can get through it.

—As told to Daliah Singer

Unsure if you need help? Take a self-test at home using this online resource.

Read other stories on the Aurora theater shooting here.