First Responders, Volunteers And Medical Professionals Also Need To Heal After Tree Of Life Shooting

Nov 5, 2018

It’s been more than a week since the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue, and those who were part of the emergency response might only now be starting to confront the effects of trauma caused by this tragedy.

For first responders, medical professionals and volunteers who assisted congregants and community members, feelings of anxiety, anger and deep sadness can arise when least expected.

That’s in part because a person whose job is to help during crisis often goes on autopilot, but they are still affected, said Jeff Magill, emergency management coordinator at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. It will take time for someone’s mind and body to process the trauma they’ve experienced.

“Are they noticing some sleep difficulties? Are they noticing a loss or lack of appetite? Are they hypervigilant to alarms or alert?” 

To recover, Magill said it’s important to understand one's reactions. It’s also important to not bottle up emotions, partly because they’ll come out anyway.

“People might find themselves more tearful, and maybe not just tearful at something obviously related, but you know, there’s a really good ad on TV ... and it tugs at our heartstrings and we’re just a little more emotional,” said Jack Rozel, the medical director of Resolve Crisis Services at UMPC Western Psychiatric Hospital.

Rozel advises that people prioritize self-care, which includes relaxing, having fun, and limiting both news and social media consumption. It’s also important to lean on friends and family, get back to normal routines, and consider seeking out professional help.

Rozel pointed out that on the day of the shooting, there was tremendous heroism displayed by people at the synagogue, first responders and medical professionals who cared for those injured. Focusing on these stories helps shape this tragedy so that it's not just traumatizing, but also transformative.

WESA receives funding from UPMC.