Surviving the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting
DU hosts national conference featuring survivors, first responders and psychologists
Survivors, first responders and health professionals from some of the worst mass shootings in recent U.S. history shared their stories at a conference focusing on the impact of mass trauma. Wednesday’s conference was held on the University of Denver campus and featured speakers impacted by shootings at Columbine High School, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Platte Canyon High School and the Aurora Century 16 Theater.
DU’s Center for Professional Development partnered with the American Psychological Association to host the event. “The University of Denver really wants to be a partner in the Denver community,” says Shannon Gray, the center’s assistant director. “We’ve been here for 150-plus years now, and we feel that these partnerships strengthen not only our student experience and our alumni experience, but also strengthen our place in the community.”
“On a regular basis, officers get calls to gruesome crime scenes, things that are traumatically impactful to the officers and the officer’s families. Without being able to pursue counseling, a number of officers would decide to pursue a different career.”
The symposium was for law enforcement, firefighters, psychologists and other mental health providers, as well as DU students and school administrators interested in helping communities across the country better manage mass trauma events.
Farrah Soudani, who was in the Aurora theater on July 20, 2012, when a gunman opened fire, described the ordeal to a crowd of about 250 in Sturm Hall. “I was shot in the abdomen and the leg, and I lost the majority of my calf,” Soudani said. “Lost a couple of organs and ribs. I still have shrapnel in my back. I had a bullet removed.”
One group often overlooked in the aftermath of these horrific scenes are first responders. This conference also focused on the help law enforcement and firefighters need to deal with trauma.
Denver Police Chief Robert White says he’s grateful the University of Denver created a platform to discuss trauma. “On a regular basis, officers get calls to gruesome crime scenes, things that are traumatically impactful to the officers and the officer’s families. Without being able to pursue counseling, a number of officers would decide to pursue a different career.”
Gray says this won’t be the last time DU will create an opportunity for individuals and the community to convene to discussing healing. “We want folks to know this is an ongoing dialogue and there are mental health professionals for anyone who is affected by these tragedies,” she said. “The more we work together, the better off everyone will be.”