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Buffalo mental health counselor encouraging Black and brown communities to seek mental health treatment following traumatic Tops mass shooting

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Posted at 12:06 AM, May 28, 2022

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The shooting also laying bare the discussion surrounding mental health in the community.

Experts explain it should not be considered taboo, otherwise barriers and cycles will never be broken.

So how do we kickstart that healing process to move forward?

A Buffalo mental health expert said it is going to take time, but for the Black and brown community to open their hearts and minds to the topic of receiving mental health counseling.

Thirteen days after a mass shooting devastated the close-knit community of Buffalo's east side, people are still living in intense fear and trying to figure out why all of this happened.

I think it's hard to say because healing is an individual thing. Also, the funerals are still happening. Each time there's a funeral, it sort of reenacts people's experiences of grief and loss, Rahsaan DeLain said.

Rahsaan DeLain is the executive director of the Collaboration on Poverty, and he is also the project coordinator for health equity for the Community Health Center of Buffalo.

While there is no time table on how long grief will last for everyone effected, he wants to help the Black and brown community foster these conversations around mental health counseling and trauma treatment.

He said a team approach has been established.

"We have mental health professionals, an RN, and an MD on site that are really able to meet people's physical, mental and emotional needs all at one time," DeLain said.

There is an emphasis on therapists of color to help in the grieving process at the Community Health Center, at 34 Benwood Avenue.

"What I think people are saying to us loud and clear is that they want people to look like them. They want people that look like them. They want that person that is talking to them, to meet with them. That really, sort of, not understands specifically this whole situation, but what it means to be a traumatized Black person in America today, and all that weight that is carried," he said.

First and foremost, the discussion of mental health should not be a forbidden topic, but DeLain understands why this may be.

"I think it's first acknowledging there's a reason why people feel that mistrust because mental health treatment in some ways, has not only felt kind and sensitive to Black and brown people and our unique and specific needs. What we try to do is not necessarily tell people but listen first. Let them facilitate what their needs are. It may not be your traditional mental health approach. It may be more spiritually based. It may be more family based," he said.

Mental health counselors who would like to get involved in helping with the healing process can call the center at 716-986-9199.

As for people outside of the Black and brown community, he suggests to try investing time on Buffalo's east side.

"Come down here and volunteer at a health center or a community-based center or at the Mary Weather. Give your contributions in a way that is not a one time thing," he explained.

Moving forward, he adds that conversations of hate need to be addressed in all communities since the motive behind the tops murders were fueled by hate.

"I think it's important for the white community to understand that one: that white supremacy is real, that racism is real and that it's going to take the white community talking to the white community at every level. It's going to take the white community addressing microaggressions and biases in themselves," he said.