NEFMHCA Strong Action Team
Connecting our members to
Community service opportunities
The NEFMHCA Strong Action Team (NSAT) is NEFMHCA’s volunteer team of members who give their time to help out at local mental health related events. Volunteer for one or more of the upcoming volunteer opportunities by reading on…
NEFMHCA Members, Kelly, Sara and Ireshia volunteer at Challenge Day at local Jacksonville middle school!
Challenge Day's mission is to provide youth and their communities with experiential workshops and programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth and full expression. Learn about Challenge Day visiting www.challengeday.org
NEFMHCA Member Katrina Huggins Helps in Orlando
We recently had the honor to speak with one of our Northeast Florida Mental Health Counselor Association members, Katrina Huggins, L.M.H.C., L.M.F.T., who has been actively involved in assisting the families and loved ones affected by the tragedy that occurred in Orlando. Katrina was gracious enough to share her experiences with NEFMHCA. Read on to learn about what Katrina did to help in Orlando.
NEFMHCA Interviewer: What is your profession and background?
Katrina: I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
NEFMHCA Interviewer: What were you doing when you first learned about the tragedy in Orlando?
Katrina: I woke up early to get ready for church and looked at my phone to find many text alerts from the local news stations and one of my friends. I then turned the TV on to find out more. From there I text a former professor whom I am still close, to see if any initiatives were happening to help those in need.
NEFMHCA Interviewer: What made you decide to get involved?
Katrina: I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida, so this was very personal for me. I could not believe something so unimaginable happened in my home town and in an area of town where no one would think something like this would ever happen. I could not idly sit by and do nothing. I believe God has blessed me with the gift of counseling and if there was ever a time to use it, this was the time.
NEFMHCA Interviewer: Where did you go to assist those who needed help?
Katrina: The first place I went was the LGBT Center on Mills which was the meeting spot, if you will. This is where the briefings took place. From there, counselors signed up for the time/days/shifts that they could help assist those in need.
From there, I headed over to the Zebra coalition to relieve a group of therapists who were answering phone calls at the center. I then headed over to the First Unitarian Church which was not too far from Pulse to assess the need. This was the “hub” where many therapists went.
Finally, myself and a colleague went to the hotel where families and loved ones were waiting to find out information on their loved ones, because at the time, the names of the victims had not yet been released. This was where much of the psychological first aid took place ensuring that people had food, water, comfort, etc.
NEFMHCA Interviewer: When you arrived, what were some of the things that you saw? What were some of the things that you felt?
Katrina: There were people hugging, crying, talking and comforting each other, some of whom either directly knew someone or knew of someone who had been affected by the early morning massacre. The outpouring of support from the community was amazing. While there, I felt an array of emotions. I was heartbroken. I could not help but think how many times I’d gone out with friends to have fun, just like the Pulse victims. No one expects a fun night out to turn into a tragedy. I also felt angry. Angry at how evil and intolerance had hurt and changed so many people’s lives forever and cut the lives of so many short. I grieve for the lives lost, grieve for the family and friends who had to hear that their family or friend was one of the ones who did not survive and I also grieve for my hometown. I also felt an amazing feeling of love and pride. Seeing strangers come together to help each other without question was amazing to experience.
NEFMHCA Interviewer: How can those who want to help reach out during this time?
Katrina: If you would like to help donate time or would like to help counsel, reach out the LGBT Center and you can also donate to the OneOrlando fund. This was an event that families did not expect and there are many families that now have to endure the cost of funeral expenses and the aftermath in the weeks to come of processing the senseless death of their loved ones. You can also give blood, stand with your local LGBT community and help educate and spread the message of tolerance acting as an advocate and ally.
NEFMHCA Interviewer: Is there anything else that you would like to share about your experience?
Katrina: Overall, the experience was very surreal. This experience made me once again realize just how precious life is and how fast it can be taken away and changed in the blink of an eye. I was grateful to have been able to go down to assist. I plan on doing what I can in the future to help out, as the need will be great in the upcoming weeks, months and years to come.
Katrina Huggins is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist currently residing in Jacksonville, Florida. Katrina is an active member of NEFMHCA and has also served on the NEFMHCA Strong Action Team.