Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services today organized a team of 20 therapists and counselors trained in crisis counseling to aid Michigan State University students, faculty, staff and others coping with the trauma of Monday night’s campus shootings.
As the incident unfolded last night, Aron Sousa, dean of MSU’s College of Human Medicine, contacted Pine Rest’s administrators seeking assistance.
Building off a long-standing working relationship with MSU to provide crisis services through a student assistance program, Pine Rest responded quickly and its staff worked overnight to assemble a team of 20 counselors and therapists who opened their schedules to take virtual appointments. Pine Rest is offering the help to students and faculty at no cost, Chief Medical Officer Bill Sanders told MiBiz.
The shootings killed three students and left five others in critical condition at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.
“It’s an unspeakable tragedy and people have been affected in ways we probably can’t appreciate yet,” said Sanders, who attended MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and served his residency there in psychiatry.
“We didn’t blink. We absolutely just jumped right on top of it,” Sanders said. “In a moment like this, this is what you do. You want to be able to help and you want to find any way possible to stand with them and help them.”
Students, staff, faculty or anybody affected by the shootings who want to access assistance can contact Pine Rest at (616) 559-5895.
“We want people to call us if they need help. We don’t want people to suffer needlessly,” Sanders said. “The sooner people get help, the better the outcome.”
The immediate concerns for people experiencing emotional trauma are anxiety, panic attacks and maladaptive coping, which can include behaviors such as self-harm, binge eating or drinking, and substance abuse.
Pine Rest will offer virtual appointments for MSU students and staff for the foreseeable future. Oftentimes, issues may not show up until 24 hours or more after a traumatic event, Sanders said.
“When people experience a tragedy like this, sometimes they’re able to get through the first day or two and then it just kind of hits them later on, especially for those individuals who have experienced a tragedy in the past,” he said. “Some of those repressed feelings or things that they had worked through can just come out and can really affect them emotionally.
“We’ll certainly continue to partner with MSU should they have someone who needs urgent care access. I don’t know exactly how long we’ll continue that, but we’ll find a way to make sure services are available for them.”
The university also has crisis services for students available through the MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services where people can get assistance by calling (517) 355-8270 and pressing “1.”
MSU police say the suspected gunman, 43-year-old Anthony McRae entered Berkey Hall on Monday evening and opened fire. He then started shooting at the nearby MSU Union.
The university issued an alert about 8:30 p.m. urging people on campus to shelter in place and to “run, hide, fight.”
The MSU campus was locked down for hours as police conducted a massive manhunt for the suspect. Police found McRae a few miles away, dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“As details continue to emerge about the tragic shooting at Michigan State University — the community where our organization is headquartered — we are horrified. Together, we must find solutions to put a stop to the senseless public health risk of violence before more lives are lost,” Michigan State Medical Society President Dr. Thomas Veverka said today in a statement.
“We as physicians work to identify mental health issues and other concerns that could lead to tragedy, and we strongly support federal and state efforts to ensure that physicians can fulfill that role in preventing firearm deaths by health screening, patient counseling on gun safety, and referral to mental health services for those with behavioral and emotional medical conditions,” Veverka said. “We need to deploy a complete array of cultural, social, medical, legal, and educational tools and assets. We need to do it together.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated from its original form to correct the spelling of Aron Sousa’s name.