What Does Gun Violence do to our Mental Health

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
February 27, 2018

Just two months into the year, there have already been 297 shootings in Chicago. That includes 63 deaths, which equates to more than one person killed every day. Now consider for every person shot, hundreds of people are affected. Families and communities are left having to constantly cope and pick up the pieces. It takes a toll on our mental health, causing everything from anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is important for people to get the help that they need. We’re here to help.       

Impact on mental well-being   

Studies show that gun violence has a lasting effect on our mental health. Without sufficient support, often including counseling, individuals may develop one or more of the following: 

  • Anxiety: The emotional stress of gun violence will cause overall increased fear, a sense of not being safe and anxiety. Individuals may feel haunted by the event and have recurring nightmares or images. Counseling can address these issues to help the person adjust to their new reality. 
  • Depression: Grief counseling can help a loved one cope with loss, the persistent sadness and mitigate the risk of depression  
  • Substance abuse: Often when people suffer a tragic loss, they increase or begin the use of drugs or alcohol to numb their pain. Unfortunately, this can often lead to addiction.  
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: Individuals may develop PTSD. Common symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, severe anxiety, depression, hopelessness, sleeplessness, heightened watchfulness, and increased irritability and aggressive behavior.   

Violence breeds violence 

There’s some truth to that saying. According to the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, youth with PTSD are more likely to exhibit impulsive or aggressive behaviors. This puts them at higher risk for making decisions that put them at risk of harm to themselves and others, thus, perpetuating the cycle of trauma and violence to themselves, their friends and family, and their communities overall. 

Getting the right help 

The truth is that a lot of state and federal funding that provides behavioral health care has been cut. With fewer programs, many people don’t know where to go. ACCESS offers a wide range of behavioral health services to help people cope with the devastating impact of gun violence. ACCESS is also a member of the Chicago Gun Violence Research Collaborative, which was formed to provide evidence-based solutions that reflect the needs of Chicago communities and help social service agencies, community organizations, law enforcement officials and others to more sustainably address this public health crisis. 

Please contact us if you or someone you know needs help.  

 

Sources:

National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

PBS

Chicago Tribune

NBC News