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The Department of Mental Health Provides Crisis Counseling to People Affected by the Tragedy at the Navy Yard

Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Tips and resources for parents and caregivers

Washington, DC--The Navy Yard tragedy can bring out strong emotions. Such high profile violence especially can confuse and frighten children who look to adults for reassurance and guidance on how to act.  The District of Columbia Department of Mental Health offers the following tips to parents and caregivers to help children cope with the aftermath of this tragedy:

Make time to talk.
Let children talk about their feelings, help put them in perspective, and assist them in expressing them appropriately. Let their questions be your guide about how much information to provide. Gently correct inaccurate information. Take time to provide the correct information in simple, clear and age-appropriate language.   

Observe children’s emotional state. Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily and may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort.  Stay close—many children want actual physical contact—and provide ways for children to express emotion either through journaling, writing letters, painting a picture or music.

Limit media exposure.  What may not be upsetting to an adult may be very upsetting and confusing for a child. Limit your own exposure as well. Adults may become more distressed with nonstop exposure to media coverage of this shooting.

Return to daily routine while maintaining flexibility. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals and exercise.  

The DC Public Library also offers a list of resources at

“When a tragedy occurs, it’s natural for people to react with anxiety, fear, and anger.  With family and community support, most of us can cope and maintain our daily activities. Some may need extra assistance,” said Stephen T. Baron, Director of the Department of Mental Health. “People seeking emotional help in the aftermath of this tragedy can call 1-888-793-4357 anytime day or night.”

The Department of Mental Health can send emergency mobile crisis teams to your home to provide counseling. If you need help, call 1-888-793-4357. Or, you also can call the national Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990. This toll-free Helpline is confidential and multilingual. The Helpline also can be accessed at and TTY for deaf and hearing impaired: 1-800-846-8517. It is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

For a description of services available through the Department of Mental Health and a list of community mental health providers, go to