May 24, 2023 - Podcasts

Mental health support for Uvalde, one year later

It's been one year since 19 children and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. In the lead-up to the anniversary, community members have been seeking mental health help.

  • Plus, LA's controversial plan to protect bus riders from the heat.

Guests: Axios' Madalyn Mendoza and journalist Sam Bloch.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Emily Peck, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go Deeper:


EMILY: Good morning. Welcome to Axios Today.

It’s Wednesday, May 24th.

I’m Emily Peck in for Niala Boodhoo.

Today: LA’s controversial plan to protect bus riders from the heat… and the push to bring shade to cities around the country.

But first: a community looks for mental health support…one year after the mass shooting in Uvalde. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

JOE BIDEN: I had hoped when I became president I would not have to do this again. Another massacre, Uvalde, Texas.

EMILY: That was President Biden one year ago today, after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting at Rob Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The deadliest school shooting in the state's history and in the U.S. in a decade. That day changed the lives of so many in the city. The school children who survived, families grieving lost loved ones, and a whole community torn apart. And now all in need of mental health support.

Axios’ Madalyn Mendoza has been covering the mental health of Uvalde families one year later. Hey, Madalyn.


EMILY: Madalyn, you talk to organizations providing mental health support for the people of Uvalde. What are you hearing about their needs at this one year mark?

MADALYN: Yeah, so I spoke to the ecumenical center of San Antonio and the Family Service Association, who are two San Antonio based nonprofits who have been helping in Uvalde since the day the tragedy occurred. And they both have told me that they have seen an increase in people coming in, trickling in as the one year mark approaches. It's been a lot of anxiety.

But also the Family Service Association told me that another concern that they're seeing is a financial stress that comes along with parents having to call out of work to work through the needs of their children or take them into appointments. So there's also this really heavy financial burden that they've been seeing throughout the years. So they're trying to help them through everything from anxiety and stress related to the actual shooting, to now the after effects with finances.

EMILY: Is it mostly families, who've lost loved ones and survivors? Are there other community members really feeling the trauma over the past year?

MADALYN: Yes, so both nonprofits told me that it's really the community at large. So in a town of about 15,000 people roughly, the Ecumenical Center has said they've seen about 2,000 people. And the ages range anywhere from elementary age children to grandparents. And the services are free, so people are really going in and taking advantage of these services. Treatments range for music and art therapy. Also some technologies like Eye Movement Reprocessing, so it's really a range, whether it be counseling, group therapy, activities, whatever their needs are, they can go into this hub of resources there in Uvalde and get that treatment.

EMILY: And how are the mental health professionals dealing with all this? Do they have the resources to help everyone?

MADALYN: So for today, for the one year mark, both nonprofits told me that they either have extra help on hand, or they have more people on standby ready to help because whoever goes in, they wanna make sure that those individuals get the help that they need. You know, some of the sources that I spoke to told me that, because they're there in Uvalde, this is their community, this is where they grew up, that at first, they've gone through the whole grief journey too of denial and acceptance not believing that this could happen in their community. So it was interesting to hear from these mental health experts that they are also needing to lean on each other and find the help that they need to, to get through this really somber one year mark,

EMILY: What do you think is important for people to remember about this tragedy a year later?

MADALYN: I think it’s important to remember that healing isn't linear. That students who may not have known what was going on a year ago are may be now at an age where they do understand the headlines or what's being talked about in school, they may have questions. And one of the mental health experts that I spoke to here in San Antonio made a good point that if a student asks you or your child asks you, or your nephew or niece asks you about the event to kind of evaluate what they already know before sharing too many details that might not be age appropriate. And I think even as adults taking in this information throughout today and remembering it's important to realize that the grief journey comes and flows and giving yourself space and permission to feel those feelings and emotions.

EMILY: Madalyn Mendoza is an Axios San Antonio reporter. Thanks Madalyn.

MADALYN: Thank you, Emily.

EMILY: In a moment: Why the debate over shade in cities is more important than ever.

EMILY: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Emily Peck in for Niala Boodoo. It's shaping up to be yet another hotter than average summer for most of the US. LA, a city where scorching heat is already the norm, has responded by building new shady structures at bus stops for sunny days, dubbed La Sombrita. But they face tons of blow back. Here to explain why is Sam Bloch, a journalist currently writing a book about shade for Random House. Sam, what is up with these shade structures? Who are they for and what do they look like?

SAM BLOCH: These shade structures are for bus riders in Los Angeles. There are 630,000 plus boardings every day in the LA region. So people get on and off the bus and only about a quarter of the bus stops in the city of LA have any kind of overhead shelter protection from the rain, but mostly the sun. This new structure called La Sombrita has been designed by the Kounkuey Design Initiative who are, um, international designers in response to the needs and desires of female and female-identifying bus riders who were involved in a, let's say, community working group about a year ago. And they said they wanted some shade because they were riding the bus in the middle of the day when it's hot. Some of them maybe are elderly or they have physical disabilities or maybe they suffer from diabetes. Any other conditions that sort of make you more vulnerable to the heat and they don't want to feel like they're going to, you know, get a heat stroke or suffer from heat exhaustion just trying to get around this city. Some of 'em also felt threatened at night. They requested more lighting to feel like they were safer when they were waiting for the bus. So, uh, KDI came up with this kind of design hack called La Sombrita. It's 24 inches wide. It's basically like a metal grate, which is a vertical screen facing the sun to make shade, uh, with a little nightlight on top.

EMILY: It looks like a big fly swatter, I thought.

SAM: Yeah, I was calling it like a perforated popsicle, but I think flies water is good too. It's not your average bus shelter. It's designed to be, um, quickly deployed and installed on some city infrastructure that already exists.

EMILY: That sounds all well and good. It's really hot. These women want shade at the bus stop. But I saw on Twitter earlier this week, a lot of, I'm sorry, but people were throwing shade at the shade structures.

SAM: They were throwing shade at this structure because the city wanted to announce this good work they were doing. You know, they were working with these designers on a broader gender equity plan. And I think there was a huge chasm between the sort of, grandiose rhetoric of solving or addressing uh, systemic issues and then the physically minuscule object itself, which is only 24 inches wide. And again, bolted to a bus pole, like on the side of the road.

EMILY: But I mean, shade, it's, it's a very important and increasingly so important issue. Right?

SAM: Yeah, it's taken on this like, more existential political, ecological importance now that we know that the planet is getting hotter. Cities especially are getting hotter, they suffer from something called the urban heat island effect. So the way cities are made, like all those asphalt roads, all those buildings, the lack of vegetation that has been paved over, cars spewing the heat, all that makes cities hotter. They're actually warming faster than the rest of the planet is sort of in a general way. So, over the past, I would say 10, 20 years as climate change has become a political issue, the mayors in Los Angeles, they've all tried to respond to this, you know, growing concern and need for some protection from the sun and some cooling.

EMILY: So, what's next for these shade structures? Are we gonna see more?

SAM: Well there are four shade structures right now in four different neighborhoods that have, uh, high rates of transit ridership. Uh, the designers are going to, uh, study these structures. They're gonna talk to bus riders and see what they think about them. And they've told me that, depending on the feedback they receive, they, they might try to make a new design.

EMILY: Last week there was new research showing we're likely to surpass 1.5 degrees of warming in the next five years. What role will shade play going forward as temperatures increase?

SAM: In cities like on the East coast, naturally forested environments, you're gonna be seeing a, you know, a big push for tree planting. In fact, President Biden, I think released 1.5 billion in federal funding for tree planting, but then I think in some of the arid, drier cities, like LA, like Phoenix, maybe even Las Vegas. You're gonna see urban designers and some city officials trying to experiment with different kinds of shade structures because they just haven't really figured out yet how to get the watering for these trees.

EMILY: Sam Block is a journalist currently writing a book about shade. Thanks Sam.

SAM: Thanks for having me.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or reach out to me on twitter – I’m AT Emily R Peck.

I’m Emily Peck in for Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

Go deeper