Universities and Community Groups Step Up Support for Students After Orlando Shooting

Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on June 15, 2016 at 4:21 pm
Universities and Community Groups Step Up Support for Students After Orlando Shooting

Community is everything and that is particularly true at times of tragedy. With the country reeling from the senseless mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight college students need to know they aren’t alone even if their schools are out of session for the summer. This is particularly important for LGBT college students who often feel singled out and have been at the center of a lot of national debate in recent months.

“A crisis like the attack in Orlando makes all of us feel powerless,” says Loretta Jay, executive director of B Stigma-Free, the non-profit focused on reducing the stigma on being different.  “Because it was fueled by hatred toward the LGBT community, this population’s feelings of vulnerability are heightened.”

Many groups from student-run organizations to nonprofits exist to support college students and help them come to grips with something so horrifying like what unfolded in the early hours of Sunday morning. From vigils to hotlines, below is a list of where students can go to get help dealing with this national tragedy.

Local vigils

When a mass shooting like the Orlando attack targets a specific group, it’s easy for people to feel alone or that the hatred that sparked the violence is commonplace. That is where local vigils come in. Vigils are taking place all over the country providing students with a way to get reassurance, says Jay, noting that vigils give people a sense of community enabling them to grieve together.  A handful of websites have a running and regularly updated list of vigils around country. Two include #WeAreOrlando and CenterLink’s #WeStandWithOrlando. A search on Google for vigils in your local area will also yield a list of vigils people can attend.

Community counseling

Coming out and showing support for the victims is one way students can find solace at times of tragedy but for those who feel like they need more counseling, there are services set up to help students deal with what happened. These can be found both in Florida and around the country. Take the LGBT Community Center located in Central Florida for one example. In collaboration with other community partners, it is offering crisis services to families, friends or anyone else impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting. Crisis counseling is available in both English and Spanish.

Meanwhile, the University of Central Florida is keeping its LGBT student hangout area, dubbed Pride Commons, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is offering daily group counseling. Community centers throughout the country are staffing their centers with counselors to help students and anyone else in need of counseling come to grips with the tragedy.

24-hour hotlines

For people in immediate need of help or who don’t want to go to a physical center, many LGBT groups have set up hotlines where people can get help. The Zebra Coalition, which runs a hotline, has been so overwhelmed by callers that it added a new counseling phone line at 407-822-5036.

Meanwhile, The Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people from the ages of 13 and 24, has a hotline and chat service set up where young people can get live help via instant messaging. The Trevor Project also provides counseling via text and social network.

The New York City Anti-Violence Project also has a hotline for English and Spanish-speaking individuals at (212)-714-1141. CenterLink’s  YouthLink Facebook page provides users with a way to share stories, express condolences and communicate with others about the Orlando shooting.

While the wounds are still fresh and the debate about gun control is raging yet again, Jay says people should use the tragedy to move change in the LGBT community forward. “People are attacked every day because of stigma. We can use this tragedy to propel us to change how we reflect upon each other in our society,” says Jay. “This responsibility falls to each of us – to speak up when we see an injustice. To embrace our differences. To have the courage to be authentic and share our own vulnerabilities. We need to foster acceptance, respect and inclusion of all people.”

Donna Fuscaldo
Donna Fuscaldo is a freelance journalist hailing out of Long Island, New York. She has also written for Bankrate.com, Glassdoor.com, SigFig.com, FoxBusiness.com, Business Insider, Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal.

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