7/20 Committee offers mental health resources for those traumatized by James Holmes hearing

Aurora vigil thumbnail.jpg
Aurora vigil.
A preliminary hearing for James Holmes, the accused Aurora theater shooter, concluded today, and numerous victims and members of the public were on site to watch. A lot of reporters were there, too, taking notes on the horrific details of the July 20 shooting -- and given the chilling testimony, survivors can be re-traumatized. That's why one Aurora group is making efforts to promote local mental health services.

"There are a lot of new details coming forward and it's gonna be pretty tough," says Karen Morales, a spokeswoman for the 7/20 Recovery Committee, an ad hoc group of Aurora officials and civic leaders that formed after the July massacre. "One of the important messages to get out...is that there is...counseling available."

Prayer on July 20, aurora.jpeg
Sam Levin
A prayer group on July 20, the morning after the tragedy.
As we reported last month, the 7/20 Committee recently launched an interactive website designed to help those struggling with trauma in the aftermath of the movie theater shooting. The site, aurorastrong.bluesunsupport.com, is based on similar tools that have been launched around the country after large tragedies to support those working through trauma.

The committee, which last year faced criticisms related to the disbursement of donations to victims' families, is now promoting the new website again this week and doing outreach work so that those affected by the shooting are aware of available services.

Studies show that six to nine months after a terrible event like this, the effects of traumatic stress usually peak, says Morales. Given that it has been six months since the shooting, the 7/20 Committee wants to make sure resources are available to those that need them.

"This is really significant timing to have the preliminary hearing right around the six-month time-frame," she says. "People are very aware of the impact new details can have.

"After six months...people have had the chance to process and maybe for the first time are realizing they have been bothered for quite a long period."

With mass homicides like Columbine, the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last month and other high-profile cases, the perpetrator or perpetrators often do not survive. But because Holmes is alive, the events of July 20 must be retraced in sometimes very graphic detail in court. As we've been reporting in real-time, this week, law enforcement officers have given emotional testimony about the bloodshed at the theater that night and disturbing 911 calls that captured the sound of gunshots were played in court.

Dave, Theresa Hoover, presser.jpeg
Sam Levin
Family members of one of the fatal victims of the theater shooting speak to reporters last month.
There is free counseling available at the Aurora Mental Health Center for survivors, those who were evacuated from James Holmes' apartment, first responders and family members impacted, says Morales, who has a background in communication crisis and raised her children in Aurora. She used to take her kids to the Century 16 theater, the site of the massacre, which is reopening this month.

Individuals can call 303-617-2300, a line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to get in touch with a trained counselor and schedule an appointment, she says.

Continue for more details on available resources.

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