Study shows gun violence increases MH issues with kids

Gun violence in a community can increase the number of children visiting the emergency room with mental health crises.

That’s the finding of a new study by Penn Medicine comparing four years worth of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia ER visits for children under 12 to Philadelphia Police Department crime data. Researchers found that children within four or five blocks of a shooting were more likely to show anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and other mental health symptoms in the weeks afterward.

Dr. Aditi Vassan, a pediatrician, noticed the connection.

"They told me that it started after a friend or a family member or a neighbor was shot or after a shooting happened in their neighborhood or in their community," she said.

The number of visits were higher the closer the child lived, and closer in time to the shooting, showing exposure to violence not only has long-term effects but also immediate ones — and not just for victims but for whole communities. She says there are lessons for practitioners and for policy-makers

Vassan says the Penn study is one of the first to look at the short-term impact of gun violence and shows the need for both trauma-informed care by practitioners and violence-reduction measures by policy-makers.

"Gun violence really predominantly effects children who are Black and children who are poor," he said. "And so, addressing gun violence — both by reducing gun violence exposure and by reducing its mental health impact — is a really key part of child health equity."

The study was published in Jama Pediatrics.

From KYW Newsradio