Special psych team helps heal Navy Yard workers

5:10 PM, Sep 27, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON NAVY YARD, DC (WUSA) -- Hundreds of people who were at the Navy Yard during the massacre are still struggling with the fear, the sleeplessness, and the sense that things may never again be normal.

"At my desk, shots fired," says James Slater, who hid in his office while Aaron Alexis prowled Building 197 searching for more people to slaughter. "I feel upset," he says, struggling with the words, "because I knew some of the people..."

The husband and father of two says at first, he really didn't want to talk to anyone about the terror. But he's glad he finally did. "For me, it feels like a second chance."

Scores of mental health pros, both civilian and military, have been staffing Emergency Assistance Centers since the attack. They keep careful score, and they say between military and civilian counselors, they've handled almost 9,000 interactions with people dealing with the aftermath.

"Sometimes they are afraid to talk about it, because they're afraid if they talk about it they will start crying and they won't be able to stop," says Cmdr. Ingrid Pauli of the US Public Health Service, who is helping lead the SPRINT or Special Psychiatrict Rapid Intervention Team.

Much of the counseling is among groups of Navy Yard workers. And just knowing other people are struggling with the same fears helps. "And they realize they can start crying and stop crying and that there are folks here to comfort them." says Pauli.

"99.9% of the people we see, they are here for one day, and they're out. And they're fine. And they are able to get back on their feet," says Earl Pinto who is directing the effort to reach out to civilian Navy workers.

The admiral in charge of all Navy installations wants the message to be absolutely clear. "There is no stigma. Whether you are a civilian, whether you are in the military, come in and get help," says Adm. William French.

Slater says one good has come from the horror. He's heard from all kinds of people he hasn't talked to in years. And he feels like he's reconnect with the people he loves the most.

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