Following a horrific van attack leaving 10 people dead and 16 others injured in Toronto, multiple hotlines and services have stepped in to help those who are feeling emotionally distressed.
On Monday, several eyewitnesses described scenes of pedestrians screaming and running, as a white rental van on Yonge Street struck several people between Finch Avenue and Sheppard Avenue.
Toronto-based clinical psychologist Dr. Maneet Bhatia says it is “normal” to feel scared, upset or worried after events like this one.
“They shock us taking us out of our comfort zone,” he tells Global News via e-mail. “These events do not follow our script of how life should be.”
He adds during times of distress, even if you weren’t directly related to Monday’s events, it’s important to talk about how you feel with someone who can help.
“Instead of avoiding our feelings, it is important to recognize them. You are not alone in these feelings and reaching out to a loved one for support is recommended,” he continues. “If you feel overwhelmed to the point where your anxiety and distress is something you cannot cope with on your own (this is not uncommon and it is important to not judge yourself for this), have compassion for yourself, and reach out to a mental health professional to help you through it.”
Following Monday’s attack, Facebook activated its Safety Check feature for the city, encouraging social media users in and around the area to mark themselves safe. People on social media described friends and family members out of town trying to get in touch or calling their loved ones who work or live in the area.
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Below are helplines and services for Toronto residents who are feeling distressed, from those affected by the tragedy to bystanders and even healthcare professionals. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help or visit a nearby hospital for additional counselling support.
Toronto Distress Centre: 416-408-4357
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Gerstein Centre: 416-929-5200
Victim Services Toronto: 416-808-7066
The PARO 24 Hour Helpline: 1-866-435-7362
LGBT Youth Line: 1-800-268-9688
According to Facebook user Nicole Goss Misura, Morneau Shepell has launched a national crisis support line at 1-844-751-2133.
Distress Centre Ottawa is also offering support for Toronto residents who may be out of town.
Others organizations who are offering assistance, include What’s Up Walk-In (they’re offering free counselling sessions for anyone under 29).
The city also has set up a reception for those who have been affected by the incident at Mitchell Field Community Centre on 89 Church Ave.