Trauma Relief after October 1
“I felt nervous at first, asking myself, ‘how can I help these people who experienced such a traumatic event?’” Said Las Vegas Recovery Center (LVRC) Mental Health Counselor, Katie Rendina, LSW.
Rendina was one of the many mental health professionals that volunteered to provide counseling on the Las Vegas Strip following the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting on October 1, 2017.
One year later, we are reminded about the trauma and pain the victims are living with and the first responders and medical professionals who saved lives after the shooting.
“When I got to work the next morning, counselors at my psychiatric hospital were asked to volunteer their services,” said Rendina. “The MGM Resorts crisis counseling partners were outsourced and MGM properties were asking other community providers for help. They needed people to provide counseling for victims, employees, and guests.”
Many counselors did not know where they were going to be assigned but Rendina ended up in the MGM Marketing and Event Planning department.
“When I walked in, you could hear a pin drop. The department was full, but it didn’t feel like a normal day,” said Rendina. “These employees were given time off but they believed the best thing was to come into work. This was because the shooting happened at their event, they all felt involved in some way.”
“It was good for the employees to be there,” said Rendina. “It helped them realize that they were not alone; there was a lot of support and empathy.”
During her volunteering, one woman stood out to Rendina. This woman was in charge of the VIP area at the music festival. What started out as an average work night, soon turned into an emergency situation.
“The VIP area where this woman was managing was a direct target,” said Rendina. “She said she had never been in a position like that; where she had to make quick decisions and pull people to safety. Though she saved lives, she still felt guilty that one of her friends was shot in the leg. When she told me this, I realized that giving these people hope and helping them see a different perspective was easing their worries.”
LVRC Clinical Director, Pamela Rinato, PsyD, LCSW was also a volunteer crisis counselor following the October 1 shooting. She was stationed at the MGM, the Venetian, and the Mandalay Bay. Dr. Rinato said large numbers of people especially employees, lined up outside the offices where the counselors were.
“I had one security guard come to me and I could see real trauma in his eyes,” said Dr. Rinato. “He saved 14 lives and he had no medical knowledge.”
Regardless, this man kept asking people for belts and created tourniquets for those who were bleeding.
“I wanted to help him,” said Dr. Rinato.
So, she asked if she could try Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) with him. For a whole hour, they did the therapy exercise.
“After the exercise, he held his hands to his head and looked up at me, asking, ‘could it really be that easy?’”
Dr. Rinato and Rendina have never done work this extreme in such a short amount of time but they both agree it was rewarding to help so many in need.
“We ended up with a lot of stories and it was amazing,” said Dr. Rinato. “I was a little sad. I had a day were my emotions fell but I had to remind myself that I helped put life back into people’s eyes. Today, I feel really good about the work, it was an interesting experience.”
“In my mind, I always viewed Las Vegas as a safe and small city,” said Rendina. “I never imaged something like this happening in our community. I feel a little proud of myself and I think it made me a stronger and more confident provider. I also think October 1 had the same effect on the community. Today, I see people memorializing what happened and they are stepping up in the community.”
The Valley Health System recognized Dr. Rinato and Rendina for their service with pins, which the two wear on their lanyards.
If you believe you are suffering from trauma, depression, or other pain, it is advised to reach out to a loved one or a local healthcare provider.
If you are looking for confidential help, check out the following resources:
“People thrive on connection and communication,” says Rendina. “It is understandable if someone is nervous to talk about their mental and physical health but it’s helpful to just talk, especially if they are showing symptoms of trauma or depression. It certainly doesn’t hurt to talk about your pain so it doesn’t have power over your life.”