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Mobilizing Help

Moments after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, thousands of Central Floridians jumped into action, including a Stetson University graduate student whose work continues to touch survivors and their families six months later.

Lindsay Kincaide

Stetson University grad student Lindsay Kincaide created a database of mental health counselors for victims after the June 12 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Lindsay Kincaide, who graduates this month with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, was instrumental in creating an extensive database of mental health counselors in the hours after the June 12 shooting that left 49 dead and 53 seriously injured. She also created a long-term care outreach that continues to provide Pulse victims and family members much-needed help.

Her response was part of Stetson University’s reaction to the shooting that shocked the gay community around the world.

“She was instrumental on the ground in mobilizing and organizing therapists to come together to help those affected by the tragedy,” said Leigh DeLorenzi, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of counselor education. “She was one of many shining stars who dropped everything to jump in and help on the day of the shooting, and for the weeks after. We are immensely proud of her.”

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson visits the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando on Sept. 12, the three-month anniversary of the shooting which left 49 people dead, and speaks to a chaplain who had assisted those impacted by the shooting. Official DHS photos by Jetta Disco.

The shooting at Pulse started shortly after 2 a.m. as the popular gay nightclub was wrapping up Latin Night. The shooter, Omar Mateen, targeted the club’s patrons and held off police in a three-hour standoff before he was shot dead.

Kincaide moved quickly after she heard about the crisis in the early morning hours, even before the full scope of the shooting was known. As director of clinical services at the GLBT Community Center in Orlando, she knew the impact would be extensive and the need for mental health counseling would be great. As a growing number of mental health counselors reached out to the community center with offers to help, Kincaide and others worked to determine the best way to put their skills to use.

At first, Kincaide distributed a clipboard for clinicians to put down their information to provide mental health services, but she quickly realized the paper document was cumbersome and ineffective. She moved to an index of Google spreadsheets that allowed clinicians to arrange daily counseling sessions at various locations across Orlando. One spreadsheet was established for counselors to schedule home visits for victims and their families. Another was for therapists to volunteer on a telephone crisis hotline. Others included a list of clinicians who could translate through language barriers and an inventory of therapists available for on-call funeral counseling.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson visits the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando on Sept. 12.

About the same time, Stetson University stepped forward to help. In addition to the many professors, students and Stetson community members who quietly loaned helping hands, the Stetson University Center at Celebration worked with the Orlando Trauma Recovery Network to facilitate large-scale Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) training sessions for therapists who would be working directly with the trauma survivors. Stetson not only provided the space for free but also provided administrative support in organizing the materials needed to facilitate the training.

Now, six months after the shooting, Kincaide said 664 mental health counselors signed up and logged 1,000 mental health encounters from June 12 through July 4. She has since created a 26-page counseling guide with information on counseling services based on location and types of support for long-term help.

“There was so much tension, so much fear as nobody knew who’d they lost and who was going to pull through,” said Kincaide, who is currently development director at Two Spirit Health Services in Orlando, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender medical and mental health facility.

“We knew we had a very large-scale crisis with complex identities involved and complex needs, that people who died were not out to families. There were family members who could not speak English. There were family members who did not live in this country who were going to find out that their (loved ones) died.”

— Amy R. Connolly