Health

The Hidden Health Crisis Caused by the Pulse Nightclub Shooting

June 12th 2017

By:
Almie Rose

It's been a year since the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people, but for survivors and first responders the trauma of the attack hasn't faded.

 

 

On Monday, NPR published a piece about one of the first responders struggling with the aftermath of the attack.

His name is Gerry Realin, and as NPR reports "he wishes he had never become a police officer." Realin is suffering from PTSD due to the horrors of that day, June 12, 2016.

 

 

"He spent four hours taking care of the dead inside the club," Abe Aboraya wrote for NPR. "Now, triggers like a Sharpie marker or a white sheet yank him out of the moment and back to the nightclub, where they used Sharpies to list the victims that night and white sheets to cover them."

Realin told Aboraya: "Then there's the moments you can't control. The images or flashbacks or nightmares you don't even know about, and your wife tells you the next day you were screaming or twitching all night."

It can be easy to forget that police officers and trained professionals are human, too: they aren't immune to PTSD. Indeed, the outlet also spoke to Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan who said "there are people who go to war and don't see what officers saw inside Pulse."

I've talked to some of the officers and they're pretty traumatized by what they saw. It was horrible, the sights and the smells, and the thing that really haunts them is the cell phones that were in [the victims'] pockets ringing. — Commissioner Patty Sheehan

Corp. Omar Delgado was one of the first officers on the scene, according to CNN. He spotted victim Angel Colon struggling to survive and pulled him to safety.

The two have been helping each other through their pain. "The two reunited days after the attack and, in the year since, have remained so close, they call each other brothers," CNN reported, adding, that "their mutual support has helped Delgado battle his own mental injuries as a result of the tragedy. He has been diagnosed with depression and PTSD."

Delgado told CNN "there are a lot of first responders out there that do not get therapy. Once you come out publicly and say you need help ... it kind of makes you look weak. But you know what? I'd rather look weak than deal with it [alone] because dealing with it [alone] is horrible."

 

What is PTSD, and how do you treat it?

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which "develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event," according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Signs and symptoms of PTSD can include frequent flashbacks of the event, nightmares, and angry outbursts. "The main treatments for people with PTSD are medications, psychotherapy (“talk” therapy), or both," NIMH explaims. "Everyone is different, and PTSD affects people differently so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. It is important for anyone with PTSD to be treated by a mental health provider who is experienced with PTSD."

This is why programs that offer police officers and survivors guidance in navigating their PTSD is so vital. 

UCF Restores, at the University of Central Florida, is a program designed specifically to help survivors of the Pulse attack with PTSD and other mental health issues.

In April, there was talk of the program being defunded, but state legislators instead voted to increase funding. As the Orlando Sentinel reported on May 31, "Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron included $2.5 million in the state budget to keep this worthy program going."

 

 

However, the budget still needs Republican Governor Rick Scott's approval in order to proceed.

 

 

If you'd like to urge Governor Scott to approve the funding, contact him here.

[H/T NPR]