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Keeping mental health in check after community violence

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – A man firing an automatic rifle inside a Target store killed by police — dozens were there and thousands have heard about it. No bystanders were hurt by gunfire.

But the destructive force of unchecked fear, however based on reality, can be insidious. So, by all means, check the way you feel.

“Whatever you’re feeling about this incident, it’s your feeling, and it’s okay to honor how you feel,” Michele Bang said. “For those directly impacted because they were at the store, they’re going to probably have some big emotions and feelings surrounding this. If you weren’t, but you’re feeling down because it happened in our community…it’s okay.”

In her three-decade career with Omaha Police, Michele Bang helped build programs aimed at protecting and serving families and children. As deputy director of Project Harmony, her experience continues to provide leadership and guidance for youngsters.

“Every school-age kid today, they’ve grown up with this as normal. But the reality is it’s not normal,” Bang said. “We need to acknowledge that these things happen and that we’re going to plan for it and think about it and be safe if it does. If we’re ever in that environment, we’re going to take steps to protect ourselves, but it isn’t normal and you’re going to have thoughts about it.”

Rev. Tom Meradith, chaplain at Brookestone Meadows, was part of the mayor’s Clergy Task Force after the Von Maur shooting sixteen years ago. He agrees these events trigger insecurity and fear that cannot be ignored.

“It’s really a downward path that a healthy community can’t take,” Meradith said. “We draw away from everybody. We were never intended to draw away from people, rather to be drawn to people. We’re stronger together.”

“When people are coping with the disaster, there’s not always a perfect response,” said Miles Glasgow with Region Six Behavioral Healthcare. “The best thing we can do is listen to each other and be available and that there are resources out there that are available to you.”

Region Six is a public entity that connects people in Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy and Washington Counties to whatever help is needed, whether insured or not. Glasgow says it starts with a free call to 988.

“You can call or text, and that’s a trained professional that can just listen to where you’re at,” Glasgow said. “Whether you just have questions about it, is this normal or what am I going through, and that someone can take those questions and be able to help guide you where to go.”

Now that the crime scene tape is gone and the people here begin to move forward, the mental and behavioral health specialists we spoke to want to underscore the fact that one thing won’t go away: resources to help in times of trauma will be there.

Free resources are available from Region Six as well as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

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