County to offer free counseling for survivors of Las Vegas massacre

Two people embrace following the Las Vegas massacre.

With so many people from the Bakersfield area grieving after the Las Vegas massacre Sunday night, the county's Behavioral Health & Recovery Services department has decided to offer free counseling to help the community heal.

Five people with strong ties to Kern County were killed during an attack on a country music festival. At least 10 from Kern County were hurt and dozens more were in attendance when the attack happened.

Supervisor of Behavioral Health Services Fernanda Ramirez said Friday that those present may experience post traumatic stress disorder, with symptoms that may vary from person to person. They include, but aren't limited to, feelings of fear, shame, guilt, increased sensitivity to loud noises, flashbacks and nightmares. All such symptoms are normal following a traumatic event, she said, and counseling can help.

"If you hold things inside, things are going to get worse. You're going to probably want to start numbing yourself so you don't experience these symptoms, which probably could lead to substance abuse," Ramirez said. "We want everybody in our community to know that we are available for everyone."

The county has scheduled counselors to be available for free, one-on-one sessions 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, October 15. Group therapy sessions sorted by age groups are also available 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 11 and Wednesday, Oct. 18.

The sessions will be held at the Mary K. Shell Mental Health Center on Mt. Vernon Avenue in the northeast corner of the Kern Medical parking lot. All services are free and do not require an appointment.

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