What gun violence does to our mental health

People with PTSD often have trouble sleeping and may become emotionally numb, continually nervous or easily frightened, she said. The wo...


People with PTSD often have trouble sleeping and may become emotionally numb, continually nervous or easily frightened, she said. The world will often seem dangerous to them, and upsetting memories can intrude on their daily thoughts. Some people may try to avoid things that remind them of their trauma. Teenagers and adults can turn to drug addiction.

younger children may have stomach aches or headaches, and less intense anxiety that causes them to misbehave or have difficulty concentrating. They may also engage in “trauma play,” acting out the trauma they’ve experienced, Dr Nugent added. If the behavior persists, she says, “then we start to worry that it might signal something big like PTSD.”

Just like those who experience gun violence, those who live in close proximity can also suffer from it.

Dr. Aditi Vasan, a general pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, decided to investigate how children in her community were psychologically affected by nearby shooting after speaking with patients suffering from anxiety, depression or sleep disturbances.

“When I asked them when these symptoms started, they told me it was after a classmate, friend or neighbor was shot,” she said.

The resulting study, published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2021, looked at ER admissions between 2014 and 2018 and found that children and teens in West and Southwest Philadelphia who lived about four to six blocks from the The location where a shooting occurred were more likely than other children to use an emergency room for mental health reasons in the two months following the shooting. The odds increased among children who were exposed to multiple shootings and among those who lived closest to the scene of a shooting, within two or three blocks. Their symptoms included anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviors, Dr. Vasan said.

Another study, California, examined the effects of police killings on several communities in Los Angeles. It showed a decrease in high school students’ academic performance, PTSD-related learning disabilities, and higher levels of depression and school dropouts correlated with students’ proximity to the location of the shooting. These problems were more pronounced among black and Latino students who lived near locations where police shot blacks and Latinos.

“Fear outweighs the need to connect with other people, and that’s the real tragedy of what violence does to communities,” said Dr Joel Fein, an emergency physician at Children’s Hospital. of Philadelphia, where he co-directs the Violence Prevention Center.

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