(COLORADO SPRINGS) — The Penrose Carriage House hosted a panel of speakers who discussed how the LGBTQ+ community has been impacted following the Club Q shooting, and the path to recovery, Saturday morning.

Mental health panel discusses path to Club Q recovery
Courtesy of FOX21’s Photojournalist Dylan Ziolkowski

The event was organized on Feb. 11, by the Colorado Springs branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in collaboration with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Organizers said collaborations like this are necessary because a tragedy of this magnitude requires a collective response.

“To make the community aware of what resources are out there and what resources they can turn to… Mental health has everything to do with the community’s health,” said Cindy Zenkert-Strange, President of AAUW Colorado Springs.

Although the Club Q shooting happened months ago, mental health experts say the impacts of a tragedy of this magnitude continually need to be addressed.

“It’s an ongoing response. It’s not just the immediate aftermath… Particularly for those who are most directly impacted by the tragedy,” said Lori Jarvis, Executive Director of NAMI Colorado Springs.

Around 50 members of the community showed up to the event to hear the panel made up of behavioral health experts and representatives of the LGBTQ+ community. Sarah Banta, who has lived in Colorado Springs for almost all her life, and identifies as queer, says the Club Q shooting largely impacted the LGBTQ+ community’s sense of safety.

“We always have it in the back of our heads, knowing that we are a marginalized community. But, when it actually manifests into a real event, then I think our understanding of how at risk we are, has come to light a lot more,” said Banta, who spoke on the panel and serves as the program coordinator for NAMI Colorado Springs.

Along with Banta, panelists included, Gerry Albrent, Spiritual Care Trainer with the American Red Cross, Shawna Kemppainen, Executive Director of The Place, and Rachel Keener, LGBTQIA2+ Health Equity Manager for the Community Health Partnership. The panel was moderated by Mary Ellen Benson, director of Strategy and Impact for the Community Health Partnership.

Event organizers wanted to provide a safe place to come together and talk about these issues.

“Trauma manifests itself in a lot of different ways, and so what we’re trying to do, is just take a very head-on approach to what’s happened here, to acknowledge it,” said Jarvis.

The purpose was to also create awareness for those who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Because whether you’re aligned with the queer community or not, the tragedy of what happened here has definitely had an impact on all of us,” stated Jarvis.

In addition to NAMI, other mental health resources for the LGBTQ+ community include Inside Out Youth Services and the Trevor Project.

NAMI is currently working on an LGBTQ+ connection support group for the Colorado Springs community, which is expected to launch in March.