Psychologists warn about the toll violence is taking on your child’s mental health

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As Columbus grapples with growing violence that involves young people, psychologists warn about the toll it could be taking on mental health.

Saturday night, a 16-year-old girl was killed during a shooting at Bicentennial Park. Police said five other teens suffered gunshot wounds, and several others were injured during the panic of the gunfire at the crowded private event.

The deadly shooting is the latest in a string of violent incidents this year. Nationwide Children’s Hospital reports treating at least 43 young gunshot victims since January 1, 2021.

“The more violence that happens in a community, especially if it’s a particular community like Central Ohio we’re talking about, it starts to change the way people think about their lives in the community they live in, about the people around them,” said Dr. Parker Huston, a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s.

Huston described the effects of the violence as a collective trauma within the communities hardest hit by the violent crime.

“[It] can actually contribute to more violence and aggression because people are in a heightened state of awareness. They’re in a heightened state of defensiveness,” he said.

For parents, Huston recommended evaluating your own thoughts and feelings as you address your child’s well-being. Making time to de-stress, limiting social media, and leaning on your support system can help alleviate some of the burdens.

“Making sure you’re engaged with whatever community you feel is supportive for you and your family, that’s really crucial,” Huston said.

He added, “Start talking with your kids about how to cope with the stressors and the environment, and how to keep themselves safe, and how to talk with their friends about preventing violence in their groups and in their areas.”

Some experts point to the pandemic which upended routines and lives as an additional stressor that compounds social issues. Huston acknowledged there is no simple solution to prevent violence and mental health issues. He said when in doubt, you should seek professional help for any concerning changes in behavior or attitude.

“Nobody has ever called me as a psychologist and I’ve thought, ‘Boy you’re wasting your time.’ I’ve always thought, ‘Thank you for calling.’”

You can find more resources and articles about discussing difficult topics with your child by
clicking on this link.

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