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Counseling being made available to Navy Yard workers

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WASHINGTON -

For survivors of the September 16th Washington Navy Yard massacre, the healing process may take some time -- and help. And Navy officials say they are making sure the victim's needs are being taken care of.

It was a crazy, deadly, mind-boggling day for thousands of men and women traumatized by the murderous acts of contract employee Aaron Alexis who stalked and murdered 12 of their colleagues. The U.S. Navy now dealing with the psychological scars from that day by opening its doors and arms to those who need help.

"There's always the question: Why did that have to happen?" says clinical psychologist Ingrid Pauli, who directs one of the Navy SPRINT teams. "Why did it have to happen to people they cared about, they knew about? And there's no good answer for that."

SPRINT or Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Teams are offering first aid to the psychological needs of the massacre survivors.

"Most people will experience initial shock and horror, sadness, anger," says Cmdr. Pauli. "But then with time, most people get better."

For those needing more time and attention, Health and Human Services is providing follow-up counseling.

"Because people are processing things differently," says Earl Pinto with HHS' Federal Occupational Health Service. "People have an emotional or physical response to stress. And what we're trying to do is help them sort of manage it, cope with it and get over it."

James Slater was on the second floor of Building 197 that day. He says he has met with a counselor.

"I walked away feeling fortunate," Slater tells us. "Having a good focus on maybe reexamining some of my priorities, reevaluating what I took for granted and what was important in my life."

Navy brass say seeking professional help is no longer frowned upon -- especially in light post-traumatic stress disorder issues from Iraq and Afghanistan and the alarming suicide rates among young veterans.

"We're trying to make sure people know that, hey, there is no stigma," says Adm. Bill French, head of the Navy's Installations Command. "Whether you're a civilian, whether you're in the military, whoever you may be, come in and get help. Talk to folks. Make sure you understand what the challenges are and how best to deal with them."

For hundreds who work at the Navy Yard, there is even the question of where to report for work? Building 197 is still a crime scene.

Adm. French says those who worked at the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters building will soon be relocating to the old Coast Guard headquarters, also along the Anacostia River.

He says the Navy is not sure what will become of Building 197.


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