Dear DMH family,
The first week of February is Gun Violence Survivors Week, and it is devastating to go into it with several high-profile mass shootings in the past two weeks alone. No one could have predicted that the Lunar New Year’s Eve mass shooting in Monterey Park at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio would be another in a tragic wave of mass shootings in our state, preceded by a mass shooting in Central California just days before, and followed by horrendous incidents of gun violence in Half Moon Bay, Oakland, San Diego, and the Beverly Crest neighborhood of Los Angeles this past weekend. This has all occurred alongside the tragic loss of Black lives at the hands of law enforcement, most recently Keenan Anderson, Tyre Nichols, and Anthony Lowe, Jr., as we collectively observe Black History Month.
This is not the new year message I had wanted to share. I wanted to convey a cheerful message about both the calendar new year and the lunar new year. But these recent events deserve space and conversation. A growing body of research tells us that mass shootings and traumatic events are associated with a wide variety of adverse psychological outcomes in survivors as well as proximal community members. There is also evidence that these events affect people who are indirectly exposed. In other words, these events affect us all. In the short term, they may increase our fears, reduce our sense of safety and general sense of well-being. And these adverse effects are magnified when there have been multiple trauma exposures, and vulnerabilities in the community, or variables that increase identification with the victims such as shared race, religion, geography or ideals.
I think it is immensely important in times like these to pay attention to how you are feeling. Our impulse is to just push through, but we also need to honestly acknowledge how we are doing and what we might need in this moment.
These recent events have affected everyone differently, so it is important to take the time to check in with yourself, and check in with those around you. Maybe you are not sleeping well or you do not have much of an appetite. Maybe you are feeling a bit anxious, angry, sad, or even numb. Talk to someone—loved ones, a professional, the anonymous 9-8-8 crisis line. You don’t have to face this alone. And at the end of the day, we are stronger together, and together we can get through this.
I want to give a very special thanks to the Psychiatric Mobile Response Team staff who had been on site since the Monterey Park tragedy at the crisis center set up at the Langley Senior Center. They worked long hours providing kindness, care and mental health resources to the families of victims and community members. Thank you, Winnie Wong, Alice Xiao, Henna Cho, Venus Ngai, Garrett Horne, Carlos Pineda, Maria Martinez, Cesar Urizar, and their fearless leader, the unstoppable Miriam Brown. They have all been amazing. We also have a whole team of staff from across all service areas who have taken shifts to be at Langley this week to provide support as the seniors return to the center.
According to Chinese tradition, this year of the rabbit is likely to be calm and gentle, bringing energy that will help those looking for a more balanced life. So, as we have already rung in the calendar new year and also welcomed the Lunar New Year of the Rabbit, my hope is that you achieve peace and balance in the year ahead.
With All My Heart,
Lisa H. Wong, Psy.D.
Director, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health
Read previous Messages from the Director in our “Connecting Our Community” newsletter archive
Last Updated: 2/28/23