Because Childhood Lasts a Lifetime.

A Message on Gun Violence from Dr. Melissa Merrick

Statements & Messages

This month, the Chicagoland area and the entire nation mourns the loss of numerous lives and the injuries of many others in what can only be described as senseless acts of violence this Independence Day weekend. The understandable outrage and profound sadness following the mass shootings that occurred not only on Chicago’s South Side and in nearby Highland Park, Illinois, but also around the country, are feelings that we at Prevent Child Abuse America share. As a national organization headquartered in Chicago, all of us at PCA America feel the weight of these tragedies, and we stand in solidarity with our friends and neighbors.

The pain of these events cannot be quantified – and unfortunately, they are something far too many Americans have experienced. In fact, there have been 11 mass shootings every week during 2022, and Black men and youth face the highest rates of firearm homicide, many of which we don’t hear about. The deafening demands for change stemming from the shooting and killing of Black men are concerns that we at PCA America cannot ignore. It is impossible to ignore the traumatic effect gun violence has on our communities, our families and our children. In this period of immense grief and confusion, PCA America recognizes the importance of resources for those struggling to comprehend the weekend’s events.

Witnessing acts of violence can have an acute, long-term psychological impact on children. According to the Philadelphia ACE Survey, seeing or hearing violence at a young age is categorized as an adverse childhood experience (ACE) that can negatively impact health behaviors and health outcomes in adulthood, including higher risk for heart disease, suicide, substance use, and poor mental health.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) emphasizes the importance of psychological first aid (PFA) in the wake of mass violence – for both children and adults. See their PFA wallet card for eight key actions when providing PFA and support to others. Additionally, the NCTSN outlines suggested talking points for parents to reference when discussing gun violence with their children.

The impact of gun violence is far-reaching and extremely devastating, and research demonstrates that it leads to negative behaviors and health outcomes for children and adults. PCA America works everyday to prevent childhood adversity, and to create the conditions for all children, families and communities to be safe and thriving. It is imperative that we continue to advocate for a comprehensive approach to preventing violence.

For more information on psychological first aid and trauma responses, please visit the NCTSN Mass Violence Resources page.

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