Understanding Your Needs
Survivors of a shooting incident are left to deal with its aftermath. If you are a survivor of gun violence, you may feel overwhelmed by grief, trauma and any number of other problems that gun violence leaves in its wake. In all of the confusion, you may find it hard to know what it is you need or how to find someone to help. Examples of things you might need help with include, but are not limited to the following:
- Medical conditions, including prescriptions
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Funeral expenses
- Crime victim compensation and other crime victim assistance
- Day care
All communities offer programs and services that might ease the pain and burden you are dealing with right now and in the future. Before you begin to search for help, remember many agencies that provide the programs and services have requirements you must meet before they can assist you. Some survivors say the process of getting help can also be frustrating, so be prepared knowing this is a process.
Looking for Local Resources
Most communities offer information and referral services that can help you connect to services and programs close to home. In the United States, 2-1-1 is a formal information and referral system that gathers, organizes and maintains this information and is available in most area. To get information and referrals on help in your area, consider taking the following steps to access the 2-1-1 system:
- On a piece of paper, list all of the things you might need help with, leaving room for the names of agencies and their contact information.
- Contact 2-1-1 by dialing 2-1-1 on your phone.
- When you call 2-1-1, be prepared to provide your zip code and your list of needs.
- Once connected, tell the 2-1-1 specialist what you’ve experienced and give them the list of your needs along with your zip code.
If you can access a computer, you can also search the internet for 2-1-1 information by doing the following:
- Type “2-1-1” and the name of your state or city into the browser search box, or type “211.0rg” for a national search.
- Your search results will give you a link to your state or local 2-1-1.
- Once you arrive at the 2-1-1 site, you will be asked to enter your zip code.
- You can browse the site by need or service category (i.e. crisis hotline, crime victim compensation, etc.), or you can search by the name of a particular agency.
Other agencies and organizations have their own lists of resources to give to people who come to them for help. Hospital social workers, victim assistance programs and other government agencies are examples. If you don’t want to use 2-1-1 or have trouble, reach out to someone in your community who has offered to help you, such as a social worker. It’s possible they have a list they can share with you.
Looking for a Mental Health Professional
While many people are able to recover from their trauma with the help of family and friends, some people may need additional support and treatment for their grief, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health need. Finding a mental health professional can be confusing. You’ll want to look for someone who is licensed to provide mental health services, like a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, counselor or marriage and family therapist.
As you look for a mental health professional for help, keep in mind that you may want to speak with several counselors or therapists before making a decision. Many will offer a free consultation so you can have the opportunity to find a good fit. Some questions you may want to consider asking include:
- Are you licensed to practice and in good standing with the state?
- How many years have you been working with clients?
- What is your experience working with survivors of trauma?
- Do you have experience working with survivors of gun violence?
- Do you have any areas of expertise you think would help me?
- What type(s) of treatment do you provide, and how would it (they) help me on my healing journey?
- What do you think about recovery?
- How are you paid and how much do you charge? Do you accept insurance or do you have a sliding scale option?
- How long will counseling last?
- What do you think about medications? Do you work with a psychiatrist or anyone who can prescribe medicines if I want to explore that as an option?
- What will we be doing during our sessions?
If you are having difficulty finding a counselor or therapist, Psychology Today has a website where you can search for someone in area. If you do have medical insurance, you can call your insurance company and ask them for names and contact information of providers in your network. If you do not have insurance or need low cost options, some therapists accept fees on a sliding scale. You can also call 2-1-1 for low-cost or no-cost mental health treatment.
Getting Help from Employee Assistance Programs
Many people who work, or whose spouse/partner works, have access to what is called an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These programs are offered by employers to help employees with a crisis or other counseling need. Some EAPs are offered as part of an insurance plan, others are independent. You can look at the back of an insurance card to see if an EAP number is listed, or you can call your human resources department to see if an EAP is offered.
National Public Distress Helpline
If you or anyone needs emotional support as a result of gun violence, please urge them to contact the SAMHSA Distress Helpline, which offers crisis support service for any American experiencing emotional distress right now at 1-800-985-5990. You can also text the Public Distress Helpline by texting “TalkWithUs” to 66746.
Other National Crisis Resources
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7/365. Text and chat services are also available.
Every contact to The Hotline is unique. Some callers identify as survivors of domestic abuse, some as abusive partners and some as concerned family members and friends seeking help for someone else. The Hotline and website offer support, information and referral.
When someone calls 800.656.HOPE (4673), they are routed to a local RAINN affiliate organization based on the first six digits of their phone number. Cell phone callers have the option to enter the ZIP code of their current location to more accurately locate the nearest sexual assault service provider. The hotline offers several services to victims of sexual assault.
The Trevor Line is a crisis hotline available 24/7/365 for LGBTQ youth. Text services are also available.
The following websites offer information on specific topics. Some provide additional resources and referrals, and some offer community forums where people can share their experiences and support each other. This list is not exhaustive and new information may be added periodically.
The National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards: The Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) Program helps crime victims and their immediate families with the financial costs of crime.
Center for Loss & Life Transition: The center helps people who are grieving by walking with them in their unique life journeys. Their website offers education about the grief process and the center offers trainings to professionals.
Grief Net: Grief Net has over 50 e-mail grief support groups and two web sites. Their integrated approach to on-line grief support provides help to people working through loss and grief issues of many kinds. Their website also offers basic information on grief.
The Center for Complicated Grief With Columbia University: The center’s goal is to increase awareness of complicated grief, and their website offers information, fact sheets and quizzes.
For Grieving Parents
Parents of Murdered Children (POMC): POMC makes the difference through on-going emotional support, education, prevention, advocacy, and awareness. They provide support and assistance to all survivors of homicide victims while working to create a world free of murder.
Compassionate Friends: Compassionate Friends is a self-help organization offering friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved families that have experienced the death of a child.
Grief Resources for Children and Teens
The Dougy Center: The Dougy Center provides support in a safe place where children, teens, young adults and their families grieving a death can share their experiences. Their website offers information, toolkits, training information and ways to order books and other resources.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) was created by Congress in 2000 as part of the Children’s Health Act to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. Their website offers information on grief as well as information about trauma. 866-775-5683
Grief after Suicide
American Association of Suicidology: Promotes the understanding and prevention of suicide and supports those who have been affected by it.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP):The AFSP is a voluntary health organization that gives those affected by suicide a nationwide community empowered by research, education and advocacy to take action against this leading cause of death. As part of their mission, AFSP supports survivors of suicide.1-888-333-AFSP (2377) (This is NOT a crisis hotline or emergency number)
Survivors of Suicide (SOS): The SOS website helps those who have lost a loved one to suicide resolve their grief and pain in their own personal way.
Find a Mental Health Professional
Psychology Today : Psychology Today offers articles and information on a variety of topics. They maintain a Therapist Finder on their website.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
National Alliance on Mental Illness: This website page provides information on PTSD. Visit the website to view other topics related to trauma, grief, depression and others. There are also chapters of NAMI located throughout the US. 800-950-NAMI Helpline
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): The NIMH is the lead federal agency for research on mental health disorders. This web page provides information on PTSD. The general website has other information on mental health disorders as well.
Verywell Mind: Verywell Mind is an online resource to find a library on any number of wellness topics, including trauma and trauma-related issues.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): This website page provides information on trauma. Visit the website to view other topics related to PTSD, grief, depression and others. There are also chapters of NAMI located throughout the US. 800-950-NAMI Helpline
DISCLAIMER. This information does not and cannot constitute or substitute medical advice. Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund is an organization dedicated to educating and bringing awareness around the issue of gun violence prevention, and does not provide treatment advice. This fact sheet merely provides general information and coping tips. More importantly, mental health conditions are complex, people differ widely in their conditions and responses, and interactions with other conditions and treatments are best evaluated by a physical examination and consultation with a qualified clinician. Everytown suggests that this page is a good starting point to discuss potential needs with your physician or other health care practitioner.