After multiple West Michigan shootings, expert gives advice on coping with trauma

Witnessing a traumatic event can have a major impact on your mental health.

It’s normal to experience changes in mood or behavior afterward according to Jennifer Gruel, a licensed counselor with Child & Family Psychological Services in Kalamazoo.

On Nov. 25, Anthony Oliver boarded a bus at the Kalamazoo Transportation Center, opened fire and injured three people.

Just days before, dozens of people were at the Cricket Club bar in Battle Creek when a security guard shot and killed 29-year-old Xavier West early Thanksgiving morning.

On Tuesday, News Channel 3’s Emirrora Austin spoke with a friend of West and witness to the shooting, who said he was holding West back from the fight when the gun went off.

“I feel a lot of things. I feel paranoid like they’re going to get me next, I don’t know why, I just do,” said Victor, who asked to not use his last name. “I feel guilty that I couldn’t save him, thankful that I still have my life.”

Gruel said people might experience recurring visions of the event playing over again in their head.

She said other common reactions after witnessing a traumatic event include anxiety, irritability, substance abuse and a change in eating or sleeping habits.

Gruel said all of these reactions are normal after a traumatic event.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people report feeling better within three months.

The CDC states that if the problems become worse or last longer than one month after the event, the person may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“From a mental health standpoint, if you notice it getting in the way of your enjoyment of life, relationships, work, or school and it’s on going, my suggestion would be to seek counseling,” said Gruel.

She said to be patient and take care of yourself by engaging in relaxing and calming activities.

The best thing you can do is talk to family, friends and even other witnesses about how you’re feeling, she said.

During a news conference about the Kalamazoo Transportation Center shooting, Mayor David Anderson addressed the Kalamazoo community.

Anderson called for destigmatizing the need for mental health support. He encouraged everyone who had witnessed or been involved with the shooting to seek mental health services to deal with trauma from the event.

“There is nothing wrong with encouraging a family member or a friend to say, ‘Hey, I think you need some help,'” Anderson said.

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