Suicides Elsewhere Raise Concerns For 2017 Strip Shooting Survivors
Three separate suicides thousands of miles from Nevada set alarm bells ringing in Las Vegas.
In the last part of March, two survivors of the high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., killed themselves, as did the father of one of the children who died in the Sandy Hook mass shooting.
The Vegas Strong Resiliency Center — set up in the wake of the 2017 Strip shootings that left 58 dead — responded by reaching out to its network of survivors. Through social media and its call center, it encouraged them to seek support if they were troubled by the news of the suicides.
“Of course, we were very concerned," Terri Keener, behavioral health coordinator with the center told KNPR's State of Nevada, "We know that this type of news has a huge impact on our survivors. And we wanted to reach out to them and make sure that they know that we’re here and that they’re not alone and that we understand that this is very difficult news.”
Keener said the center didn't receive any direct messages from people indicating they were having suicidal thoughts.
“We did hear that people were devastated, upset, deeply saddened and had feelings that they had had at the time of the 1 October incident,” she said.
She said that suicides can have a 'cluster effect' especially with people who have had a common experience, which is why the center is reaching out to let survivors know what resources they have available.
Tennille Pereira is the director of the resiliency center. She said trauma can impact many aspects of a person's life, which is why the center has so many services available.
“A lot of times, it impacts everything in their life," she said, "So, we have collaboration there with a number of agencies. We have a full-time legal staff with attorneys, legal advocates. We have social workers. We have mental health professionals. We asses the needs and then we connect them with benefits.”
Pereira said while the mass shooting happened in October of 2017 new people are still contacting the center seeking help.
“There are tens of thousands of individuals potentially impacted by this that would qualify for our services,” she said, pointing out that 22,000 tickets were sold for the concert but there were also hundreds of workers at the event and thousands of people in the area at the time.
One of the people who was there is p sychologist Shiva Ghaed.
Ghaed told KNPR's State of Nevada the night was "really terrifying."
But the thing she remembers most is the aftermath. She said in media reports the phrase, 'the shooting went on for 10 minutes' was oft repeated, but it didn't tell the whole, horrifying story.
“When the shooting started, roughly around 10 o’clock, it was a good two hours of running and hiding all over the Strip before I was in the lockdown,” she said.
Ghaed, like many others, ended up at the Tropicana but even then there were bomb threats and talk of more shooters along the Strip. She said she didn't feel safe until she was finally headed back to her hotel.
After she returned to her home in San Diego, she didn't feel any trauma symptoms but when she came back to Las Vegas two weeks later - things changed.
“When I got back, I started noticing that I was just hypervigilant, very sensitive to sound and lights," she said, "For whatever reason, flashing lights and bright lights and loud noises were two things that continued to trigger me through the entire year."
A few days after the shooting Ghaed started a support group in San Diego. She said news of the recent suicides was one more challenge in a year and half of challenges for her and other survivors.
Ghaed said she thought “the fact that I have expertise in treating PTSD and trauma and anxiety disorders would somehow immunize me.”
Instead, she found she is on the same path to recovery as her patients.
“What I realize now is these symptoms occur irrespective of race, ethnicity, age, background, job title, gender,” Ghaed said.
Ghaed said the people who participated in therapy and worked on coping behaviors have gotten better, but unfortunately, those who "have avoided and have isolated" have not recovered as well.
She is also being contacted by new people who survived the shooting but didn't take immediate action for their mental health. Ghaed said those people are feeling regretful that they didn't connect to that social support earlier.
The Vegas Strong Resiliency Center at 1524 Pinto Lane in Las Vegas assists those affected by the Oct. 1, 2017, Strip shooting, whether or not they are from Southern Nevada.
(702) 455-2433, or reach out online.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention
Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention
Mobile Crisis Response Team - Hotline: South: 702-486-7865 or North: 775-688-1670
Crisis Call Center - Text Line - Text - "Listen" to 839863
De Prevencion del Suicido - 1-888-628-9454
Tennille Pereira, director, Vegas Strong Resiliency Center; Terri Keener, behavioral health coordinator, Vegas Strong Resiliency Center; Shiva Ghaed, psychologist and Strip shooting survivor