The streets of McHenry County are awash with reminders of two major events that have sent feelings of confusion, anger and sadness throughout the community.
Light poles throughout the area still were adorned with black and blue ribbons in memory of fallen McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner when new, lighter blue ribbons were hung in honor of 5-year-old AJ Freund.
As the community reels from the previous two months’ events, the McHenry County Mental Health Board is encouraging residents to use the resources at their disposal and constructively channel what executive director Scott Block called “secondary trauma.”
The public vigils and memorials throughout the area are evidence that people within McHenry County are grieving as a community, Block said.
“Obviously people feel that there’s a current sense of mission,” he said.
The stress of navigating a traumatic situation can be eased in part by reconnecting with people, rebuilding a routine, participating in community events and simply talking about the situation, Block said.
“One of the strategies that I’ve come across throughout the years as the big part of healing is talking and feeling a sense of security and realness,” he said.
For people searching for help beyond talking with family and friends, the mental health board has partnered with Northwestern Medicine’s Crisis Line to address the community’s immediate needs.
Anyone struggling with grief or mental health issues can call the crisis line at 800-892-8900 or the MCHELP mobile app, 2-1-1.
The effects of secondary trauma aren’t exclusive to adults, either, Block said.
Parents and caregivers should feel comfortable having open conversations with children about potentially traumatic situations – personal or otherwise, Block said.
“The best way to talk about anything mental health-related with a child is to allow them to talk and feel,” he said. “A lot of times we try to shelter our children from these types of events or move on without really talking them through it.”