Maine’s biggest mass shooting will require community healing

The people of Lewiston, Maine, have a heavy mental load to carry.

As police are taking in calls with tips, the heads of the Maine Crisis Line and Mobile Crisis Team tell Scripps News they’ve had a 21% increase in calls in the past 24 hours. They expect that to rise as the days go on.

“Folks are both like physically sheltering in place and also kind of emotionally sheltered, sheltering in place,” said Christina Cook, the director at Opportunity Alliance. 

“We do have an incredible amount of support for people who are going through a difficult time right now — from not only the events that have happened, but having to witness some of it,” said John Alexander, CMO and COO of Central Maine Healthcare.

It isn’t just about coping with the tragedy of the shooting. After traumatic events, the brain is trying to handle the uncertainty of physical safety — one of humans’ most basic needs. The isolation of sheltering in place and the anxiety of the search for the suspect worsen that stress.

“So people are scared. They’re confused. They’re worried. Now, the kids are scared of going to school, going to the mall. It’s going to sit with them for a while,” said Nichoel Wymanarel, a Lewiston resident. 

Perhaps the closest community that may understand is Boston. In 2013, it took four-and-a-half days to find and capture the Boston Marathon bombers.

“That’s a real challenge, I think even when the suspect is hopefully apprehended as soon as possible, these kinds of events really threaten your own sense of safety and security as medical providers, as it does for everyone in the community,” said Dr. Paul Biddinger, chief of the Division of Emergency Preparedness, Department of Emergency Medicine at Mass General Brigham.