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Gun violence is affecting 88% of Americans' mental health, study finds

A study on gun violence by security firm Evolv Technology found 88% of Americans are anxious about gun violence.
Gun violence is affecting 88% of Americans' mental health, study finds
Posted at 4:34 PM, Apr 12, 2023

The students from Uvalde, Texas chanted, "End gun violence" after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022. Eight days after that tragedy, a gunman shot and killed five people at a medical building in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And three days later, three people were killed and 12 injured in a shooting in downtown Philadelphia. The list goes on.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 648 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2022 and 692 in 2021. As of mid-April, it's counted at least 145 mass shootings in the country so far this year.

For the victims and their families, the fallout is clear. But how is this impacting the mental health of the nation?

"I'm tired that every day I see another shooting at yet another place," one Uvalde student said. "I just nod along because it's so normal to me."

For that student, gun carnage is not just a news story; it's a tragedy putting the country on edge.

A report by the security firm Evolv said 88% of Americans are anxious about gun violence. More than a third believe they will run into an active shooter within their lifetime.

SEE MORE: Gun violence has become a part of America's culture

Psychologist Michi Fu isn't shocked by the numbers.

"We're seeing it across all levels, especially among children who have a fear of going to school and certain public spaces," Fu said. "I do have some patients that have expressed to me whenever there's a gun shooting at a school, they're not surprised."

Evolv also found 3 out of 4 parents polled said their children are experiencing anxiety about school shootings.

"How are you able to focus in the classroom if every noise you're hearing in the hallway, you're wondering if it could be an active shooter?" Fu said. "I mean, what a way to go through your education career as a student. It's really heartbreaking, and it's something we need to stop."

Jill Lemond was the assistant superintendent at Oxford Community Schools in Detroit during a mass shooting there there in 2021. Now she works at Evolv, working with schools and businesses, like stores and theme parks, on safety issues as the number of guns in the country continues to grow.

"One of the statistics that stood out to me on the education side is that somewhere around 40% of the educators that were involved in the study said they're considering quitting — quitting the workforce, quitting the education workforce — as a result of gun violence and fear of gun violence," Lemond said.

That's just one example of gun violence changing how Americans live now.

SEE MORE: After a Scripps News guns investigation, Congress takes note

A survey by The Kaiser Family Foundation found 84% of Americans said they have taken at least one precautionary measure to protect themselves or their families from being shot.

"Having a trauma response that is shared is actually a really important part of being able to critically debrief, and so for folks who are isolating themselves, that's actually one of the worst things you could do," Fu said.

Fu has seen first-hand the impact of mass shootings in her community. In January, she counseled people in Monterey Park, California, where a gunman killed 11 people.

She says attending a vigil or a memorial can help.

"We were all in a shared kind of way suffering together," Fu said. "It made people feel more seen, that they were able to then feel like we want to take back the streets of our neighborhood again."

If community events aren't available, Fu recommends organizing one or talking to someone — whether it be a friend a professional — because when it comes to your mental health, she says you shouldn't struggle alone.

Fu also said routines can help.

"Being able to give ourselves some sort of routine in terms of a predictable schedule can do wonders for helping people feel more grounded," Fu said.

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