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Following Chesapeake mass shooting, mental health experts explain healing through tragedy

Hampton Roads mental health experts want to remind people resources are available.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — The emotions after the mass shooting in Chesapeake are tough to handle.

“It is absolutely devastating what is happening to these families," said City of Chesapeake Director of Human Services Pamela Little-Hill. 

Little-Hill worked throughout the night to bring healing to the families impacted.

“We want to wrap our arms around them, we want to wrap services around them," she said.

Just after the shooting on Tuesday night, city leaders opened the Chesapeake Conference Center as a reunification center where families can find healthy ways to grieve and get counseling services.

“It is not something we are going to heal anytime soon, but we will take the steps necessary and start the process to get us there," said Little-Hill. 

The Hampton Roads community is coming together to support Chesapeake. The Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center, is opening its doors to provide counseling for free for anyone impacted.

“It’s very OK to feel that pain. In fact, I would as a clinician be concerned or cautious about people trying to block that pain," said Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center CEO Kurt Hooks. “It’s critical with adults and kids especially, to get them surrounded by people they trust. People they know that can help keep them safe and people that will listen."

Mental health experts advise people to talk to loved ones and close friends in a calm manner and also seek counseling.

“It can really help lessen the intensity of that experience over time and the impact of that experience," said Hooks. 

Little-Hill said they hope anyone in need of support knows resources are available.

“But we’re going to hang in there as long as we need to. We really want the families and our citizens to know again, we’re the city that cares and we’re going to be here for you," said Little-Hill. 

A local psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, Dr. Michele Davidson, spoke to 13NewsNow about how and why incidents like the Walmart shooting can affect so many of us.

"I think because it is a local Walmart and so many of us in Chesapeake, in Hampton Roads have been in Walmarts, or even that Walmart. They have the same layout, the same familiarity. There's not a lot of people who don't go into Walmart on occasion," explained Dr. Davidson. "So, it really hits home. It hits home when you go grocery shopping, you're thinking about picking up something, you're taking your kids in there. I have a son in a wheelchair. It really hits home. I'm thinking, 'Where would I run with a wheelchair?'" 

Dr. Davidson, who owns Chesapeake Bay Psychiatry also shared this advice about how to shift the discussion away from the recent tragedies during our Thanksgiving gatherings.

"You can do an exercise where everyone goes around the table and says something they're grateful for. That kind of shifts the focus from the tragedy to people being grateful and showing gratitude,"  Dr. Davidson said.  

Officials with Sentara Norfolk General Hospital also posted on their Facebook page several resources that are available. 

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