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Mental health support group for Mayfield tornado survivors launching this week

Project Recovery
Project Recovery website homepage

A tornado survivor support group for people impacted by December’s deadly storms is meeting for the first time Thursday in Mayfield.

The first meeting of Project Recovery’s weekly Survivor Support Group in Graves County will be held June 9 at 5 p.m. at the Graves County Baptist Association. The meeting is for those who were impacted by the tornado in Mayfield. Project Recovery Mayfield-Graves County Team Lead Danelle Sams said physical and material needs like food, water and shelter were met in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, but now is the time to deal with mental health repercussions.

“As we are so many months after the tornado, what we are now seeing is the long term aftermath of the tornado which opens up the emotional and spiritual needs of the people in the community,” Sams said. “People are presenting with struggles in getting back to their normal day to day functioning, having difficulty in adjusting in different aspects of their life.”

Some of these struggles center around dealing with bad weather or having heightened anxiety since the storm. With this in mind, Sams said now is the time to focus on mental and emotional recovery. The support group is an opportunity to come together as a community to share experiences and lean on each other, Sams said. There will be crisis counselors, pastoral counselors and emotional and spiritual counselors at the support group.

“As we are in the recovery phase, post traumatic incident, now is the time that we are really focusing on the mental well being of the community and making sure that those needs are met, just like their immediate needs were met in December and January and February,” Sams said.

This event is only for those who were in Mayfield and Graves County when the tornado came through, but there are Project Recovery teams in Fulton and Hickman Counties in Clinton and one in Marshall County. Thursday’s event is free and the group is planning to have snacks and beverages available.

“It's a place where you can come get some help,” Sams said “If we see that somebody might be needing some more intense mental health therapy — or pastoral counseling, it's their choice — we're going to get them connected to the wealth of mental health that is available in this area.”

The support group is a place free from judgment, Sams said. Project Recovery is there to support every person who attends and to listen to everyone’s story.

There will be Spanish interpreters available at the event. There will also be support staff there in case people are unable to find childcare for the night. Sams said the Thursday group isn’t really youth-focused, but they do hope to expand into programs like that depending on the need and attendance they see going forward.

“It's a survivor support group, so we want to make sure that people that come to this group,” Sams said. “There's no judgment. We are here to support every person that walks through that door. We want to hear your story. We want other people to connect through their shared experiences.”

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State's NPR Station. Her nine month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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