Getting help: Mental health workers provide free care after Boulder mass shooting

Grocery Store Tragedy

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Mental health workers are encouraging people to take advantage of the various therapy and counseling options following the mass shooting at a Boulder King Soopers that happened earlier this week.

Jennifer Silacci, a Boulder local, is the founder of Therapy Aid Coalition, a national mental health non-profit that was originally intended to help essential, frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Silacci is offering free crisis counseling at Boulder Unity Church to people who were impacted by the shooting.

“They are able to drop right in. We have crisis counselors that are trauma and crisis trained here to listen and just to help everyone drop into the nervous system and get a little more grounded and regulated,” said Silacci.

The services were offered Friday morning and will be available again on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with no appointment necessary. Therapy Aid Coalition is co-hosting the clinic with Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute. 

Dr. Diane Poole Heller, Ph.D., specializes in trauma resolution and has experience with a similar crisis. Just over 20 years ago she worked with victims of the Columbine High School shooting.

“People react differently. Some really withdraw, some freeze, some get really angry and have angry outbursts,” said Heller.

She said whether a person was directly impacted by the King Soopers shooting or watched the tragedy play out on social media – they may experience some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder. She encourages people to manage PTSD by connecting with others and being surrounded by loved ones.

“I think doing as many normal activities as you can with your kids and your family is really helpful and to understand that grief and trauma can sneak in,” said Heller.

She says many people may not experience trauma symptoms, while others may notice them months or years down the road.

“Sometimes you’re coping, your body is staying resilient. And sometimes it’s a year before symptoms show up because our coping skills can be so strong,” said Heller.

Heller said trauma can intensify if symptoms aren’t addressed early on. She encourages people to seek help from a mental health professional if they’re having trouble managing PTSD on their own.

There are many other mental health resources available for those in Boulder and across Colorado. Silacci said those who are unable to make it to the Saturday drop-in counseling services can connect with a therapist through their website

The Boulder Office of Emergency Management is also keeping the Family Assistance Center open through at least Sunday for services such as counseling, therapy dogs and massage. 

Other resources are listed below:

Call or text the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990
Call Mental Health Partners at 303-443-8500 or 1-844-493-TALK (8255) 24/7 or visit their site or Facebook page for virtual help.
Visit Boulder County’s website for more resources.

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