Mental health and coping with the trauma of gun violence: 'It's not normal'

Joel Brown Image
Monday, May 13, 2024
Silent Struggle: Trauma of gun violence
ABC11 is marking Mental Health Awareness Month with a special town hall conversation this week.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- ABC11 is marking Mental Health Awareness Month with a special town hall conversation this week. "The Silent Struggle" will air at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 15 on the ABC11 North Carolina streaming app as part of our commitment to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Part of our conversation centers on the trauma of gun violence. We don't just live with the headlines of gun violence -- Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, and dozens of communities in between are also living with the trauma gun violence leaves in its wake.

"For trauma to really occur, it just has to impact the individual in the way that they believe that they may be at risk," said Raleigh child psychiatrist, Dr. Nerissa Price, who will serve on Wednesday's town hall panel.

Price said the closer you are to the actual gun violence event, the greater the risk the trauma will impact you. That trauma can present in different ways, including anger and crippling fear -- such as worrying about going outside.

The impacts of gun violence on children can be even more acute.

"It's not normal to have that sort of exposure as you're growing up as a child to not know if just going out to play with your friends could actually risk your life," Price said. "That's not normal to have that constant fear fueling you."

Signs of trauma in a child: They may seem more withdrawn or isolated. Sometimes, bedwetting is a sign. Price urges parents to seek out professional help if they think their child could be dealing with these issues.

She's also urging society to dig deeper to solve the root causes of its gun violence crisis.

"There are many different factors that add to why a person may become violent or not. And mental illness may just be one factor," said Price. "In order to solve the problems of violence today, we have to really be going further and further upstream."