Mental health experts speak on Newtown trauma

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- It will take a year or more before mental health experts will understand how long the severe trauma caused by the tragedy at Sandy Hook will last. And there's word that the trauma of the event is still spreading.

"I think that it will take at least a year to two years before we will even begin to understand how long this is going to take and I don't believe the town of Newtown, obviously, will ever be the same again," said Commissioner Patricia Rehmer, CT Dept. of Mental Health & Addiction Services.

Mental health experts revealed Friday that the trauma center quickly set up in Newtown following the tragedy at Sandy Hook was seeing people at a rate of more than 300 a day during the first week after the shootings.  

"What we really know is that the trauma and the after effects of the trauma really aren't even, probably, we're just beginning to see that now," Rehmer said.

Even the state commissioners of mental and public health and the department of children said that after spending days in Newtown after the tragedy, they were suffering from some trauma.

And another expert says that many of the counselors that are helping the people affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook are now suffering from what's called 'vicarious trauma' themselves.

"Hearing the whole story and through the hearing of it and then interacting with the person who's been grievously affected, is grievously affected him or herself," said Dr. Harold Schwartz, The Institute of Living.
Most people agree that the tragedy has affected nearly everyone in the state in some way. Dr. Schwartz says many people are suffering from trauma just from watching the events unfold on television.

"People who see things on the news, are constantly reading the stories about what's happened in the newspaper, who are stressed themselves and who may actually experience signs and symptoms of stress disorders," Dr. Schwartz said.

"One of the other things that's been really important to us is; not think that we need to rush in and be there for a short amount of time," said Commissioner Jewel Mullen, CT Dept. of Public Health, "but to be listening and be responsible to people in the days, weeks, and months that follow."

It was noted Friday that many mental health experts are volunteering services, but the experts stressed there will be need for resources from the state for Newtown for a long, long time.

Copyright 2014 WTNH TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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