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VEGAS STRONG….from a Mental Health Professional

I am only one voice in a very large city full of people in so much pain right now, but I think every voice matters. I am using mine here briefly as a licensed mental health professional first and last as a resident of the devastated City of Las Vegas.

As we struggle to comprehend a mind that could even fathom let alone act out violence of the magnitude we witnessed here Sunday night, it is important to know that we can and will never be able to understand. Trying to empathize, step into the shoes of a person with a mind this pathological, is simply not an option for the rest of us. What I can offer is the answer to a question I am being asked: How could this man hate people so much? The answer is that he didn’t hate them, he didn’t even care about them. This “man” hated himself.

As a long-time therapist and author working with grief and loss, and as the mental health
professional who was on live TV when our country was attacked on 9/11, I have watched the local news in the past 24 hours with disdain. What I saw was anchor desk newscasters reading mental health tips from their computers to help viewers cope. I don’t know if not using qualified guests to speak is a budget issue (guests are not paid) or fear of liability or what, but what it isn’t is effective or responsible dissemination of information under critical circumstances. Real mental health assistance and treatment is not found by reading bullet points on the internet.

I heard national news casters talking about “grieving” within hours of the shooting being
reported. The immediate reaction to this event is not grief, it is shock. Mourning is how we
express our sadness following a loss, like the memorials we see appearing on the Strip and vigils of people coming together in support of one another and respect for those injured and lost. Shock eventually wears off, and mourning ends. Grief is the real work that lies ahead.

I came to Vegas for two years 25 years ago this month. I don’t know if I chose it or it chose me, but it’s a marriage that has worked well. I believe the heart and soul of this city is based on the entertainment community, and many of us who live here are gypsies from all over who found and made a unique home together. Las Vegas is and will continue to be an amazing place. No, it will never be the same again, but we have always been different, and therein lies our strength.


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