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Sutherlands Springs shooting survivor speaks at mental health conference

4th Annual Pathways to Hope Conference takes place at Tobin Center

As part of the 4th Annual Pathways to Hope Conference on mental illness, a survivor and first responder from the Sutherland Springs shooting, along with the church's pastor shared their experience in dealing with trauma Saturday morning at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

For shooting survivor David Colbath, nothing can ever erase what he lived through the morning of Nov. 7, 2017, at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church - a shooting that left 26 of his fellow worshippers dead.

"Initially I was in the back of the church and I made my way halfway up to the front," Colbath said.

Part of his pathway to hope meant receiving immediate counseling at the hospital, and later, going back to the site of the massacre to express his anguish through tears.

"I came to grips that the building had nothing to do with it, as the gun had nothing to do with it. It was an individual who was sick," Colbath said.

He has fought through trauma and depression, and is now able to share his experience.

"Now I want to reach out and help people that have helped me (as well as) people that need help," Colbath said. "I'd like to extend a helping hand to them."

Experts from the National Alliance on Mental Illness say that many times family members don't know how to communicate with their loved one experiencing trauma, anxiety or other mental diagnosis. Mary Beth Fisk, CEO of the Ecumencial Center in San Antonio, advices people to be honest, especially with children and teens.

"If your children are asking questions, answer those questions as factual as you can. Don't try to say, 'Oh, it's not important. You don't need to know that,'" Fisk said.

In Bexar County, experts estimate about 400,000 people are affected by a mental diagnosis in any given year. Doug Beach, chairman of The Pathways to Hope Conference says the best way to help loved ones heal is through community awareness and support.

To learn more about the National Alliance on Mental Illness, click here to visit its website.