County Offers Help After Traumatic Week

A memorial is up on the corner of Central Avenue and East Howard Avenue in Dunkirk, for the victims of Friday’s four-vehicle accident which occurred just feet away. Luis A. Perez-Torres, 33, and Erik M. Medina-Rodriquez, 17, died in the crash. Photo by M.J. Stafford

Last week was a traumatic week across Western New York.

On Thursday, a multi-vehicle crash on Central Avenue in Dunkirk resulted in two fatalities while injuring others. Also on Thursday, a man was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a car in Collins near State Route 438 and Versailles Plank Road.

Just a day later, internationally renowned author Salman Rushdie was stabbed on stage at the Chautauqua Institution in an attack resulting in an attempted murder charge for the assailant. The harrowing event put Chautauqua County on major news outlets worldwide, just months after a horrific mass shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo.

In close-knit communities like those impacted throughout Western New York, tragic events such as these can leave a lasting imprint on members of the community. The Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene offers help to deal with the impact of traumatic events.

“We are so fortunate in Chautauqua County that we do have a lot of support available. … A good thing about our community is we’re more inclined to really rely on each other. We can create a supportive circle of services, which is really great,” said Deb Maggio, communications and development manager of the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene.

One factor that specifically relates to the recent local tragedies is how rare it is to have so many traumatic events happen so closely together. “Because of where we live — we live in this wonderful rural area — we’ve been insulated from a lot of things happening. Last week was a big hit to us all,” she said. “Every one of us that has driven down Central Avenue can imagine innocently driving down there and certainly not expecting something like that to happen.”

County officials also released a statement to the press on Monday morning related to the recent events and the resources available to the public.

“A traumatic event can affect someone emotionally, physically, and mentally. Fear and anxiety about a traumatic event can overwhelm and cause strong emotions. These feelings are normal. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations,” the county Mental Health department said in the press release.

“The emotional impact of an event on a person can depend on the person’s characteristics and experiences, the social and economic circumstances of the person and their community, and the availability of local resources. People can become more distressed if they see repeated images or hear repeated reports about the outbreak in the media,” the release also stated.

The department urges those impacted to talk to someone; to keep physically active; to do something that brings joy; and to eat and sleep well.

It also warns against using alcohol or drugs to cope with traumatic events and also warns against excessive use of social media with triggering subject matter – known as “doom scrolling.”Anyone seeking assistance is urged to call the Chautauqua County Suicide Prevention and Crisis Hotline at 1-800-724-0461, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Everybody defines a crisis differently because we all receive and process information differently. But if you feel like you are in crisis, that is one resource that is there for you 24/7 that you can reach out to. Either they can help you directly or they can get you to someone who can help you,” said Maggio.

Chautauqua County also offers Community Behavioral Health Clinics in both Jamestown at 200 E. Third St., fifth floor, 716) 661-8330 and in Dunkirk at 60-62 Franklin Ave., 716-363-3550.

“This past week definitely highlights the need, but you don’t need a tragedy to not feel mentally great. You can just have a shirt that’s too tight and not feel wonderful,” Maggio said. “We’re here when you’re at your best and your not-so-best.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today