COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — When a kid gets shot, the family suffers. That trauma radiates into neighborhoods, and creates stress that is toxic to physical and mental health.
Bishop Jerry Pierce, whose church Miracle Cathedral is on East 5th Avenue, says trauma experienced by families affects all of the community living there.
“Linden, Hilltop — a mother has to ride past the place where the fire department washed the blood of her baby off the sidewalk. It affects the community spiritually, the safety of the community, the health, the mental health. Now the family is broken,” said Bishop Pierce.
“You took my child, so what’s the retribution for that? Now you have two families that are affected. One’s dead, the other’s doing life in prison. 18 years old. So now mama has to deal with that. The whole community is in a split. It’s devastated.”
Listen to the full interview with Bishop Jerry Pierce, Miracle Cathedral.
“When a child suffers a firearm injury, the whole family suffers in ways that are long standing and sometimes permanent,” said Dr. Jonathan Groner, a pediatric trauma surgeon at an area hospital, who has been taking care of trauma and burn patients for 25 years.
“In an evolving field of mental health called toxic stress, or impact of a neighborhood, there is some suggestion in literature that kids who experience episodes of violence in their neighborhoods, not even in their family, have higher episodes of things like asthma, and that adults who have been victims of this toxic stress growing up…have higher rates of heart disease and cancer.”
Listen to the interview with Dr. Groner about the effects of violence on children.
As the Section Chief at Columbus Public Health for Neighborhood Social Services, Marian Stuckey’s teams are at the front lines of helping a record number of victims this year.
“It’s devastating to get that call, that notice that there has been another trauma,” said Stuckey. “The sheer volume and numbers of young people losing their lives.”
The CARE coalition team (614-645-6248) responds within a week to each and every homicide to connect with the families. They offer counselling, food, and other assistance.
“Incarceration, living in poverty, discrimination racism, child abuse are cumulative and affect brain development,” said Stuckey, who cites the ACEs study. “When you have trauma concentrated in a specific area, many find ourselves in survival mode when we hear gunshots and don’t feel safe.”
This survival response travels with kids into their classrooms, and follows them throughout their days.
“We have to consider the impact of gunshots on the developing brain on children in the community as a whole. Another coping mechanism is to become numb to it, and to not necessarily react when you hear something constantly.
“Oftentimes a lot of the behaviors that we see are defense mechanisms and coping skills for dealing with an environment that people are forced to be in all the time. This is a brain response that we have, no matter who we are,” Stuckey said.
Bishop Pierce has seen first-hand how trauma makes children numb. “These young kids been to three, four funerals with friends that have been murdered. They got all the t-shirts. They don’t even cry anymore. That’s the way they deal with trauma. We have to bring them hope. “
For the parents of the kids who die, there isn’t any end to that sudden death. “I got a woman who’s been dealing with that stuff for 15 years. I see her now, she’s not healthy. You can’t tell somebody, ‘it’s time for you to heal; get over that.’ How are you going to tell somebody, get over that? How you going to get over your child?” asks Bishop Pierce. “Some mothers go to the gravesite.
“Fresh flowers, once a week, talking to the ground. Their son.”