Last year was Kansas City’s worst year for gun violence, and so far this year, Kansas City is on track to beat last year’s record number of homicides.
According to KCPD’s homicide analysis report as of April 6, more than 60% of homicide victims are Black men, and many of the incidents stemmed from an argument, resulting in the use of a firearm.
Experts say some of the biggest factors for last year’s uptick in homicides were the result of the stressors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial uprisings. However, local therapists believe the lack of access to mental health resources is a factor that could play a huge role in reducing gun violence.
“You can reduce everything that plagues our community, if you address mental health and trauma,” said Cecil Wattree, a therapist and founder of the Black Mental Health Initiative. “Of all medical stigmas that face the Black community, the biggest is mental health, which we also use to address trauma. So, the thing we’re the most avoidant of, is also the thing that could possibly save us.”
Licensed Professional Counselor Erica Thompson says much of the violence in the Black community is happening because the community is not healing.
“Healing as a community is important,” Thompson said. “We’re not going to get anywhere without healing.”
She sees it every day in her office. Many of the life problems people come to her office for stem from trauma that happened to them in the past.
“They never dealt with past childhood hurts and issues or parents that abused them,” Thompson said. “And so now, even when I’m dealing with the foster care system, it’s like, part of the reason that they had their own kids taken away, has to do with the fact of how their parents raised them and the things that they did to them. So, it’s a generational trauma.”
Thompson says ignoring those traumas and letting them bottle up until they explode, causes irrational actions like violence, creating more trauma, which happens over and over.
“We see in the community that we don’t know any other way outside of retaliation, but in reality, that’s not the thing to do,” Thompson said. “So, we have to remember that before we get to an irrational point, we need to come in, work that out with (a therapist) and learn better coping strategies.”
Jazzlyn Johnson is a Report for America corps member based at The Community Voice covering Kansas City’s African-American community