Research aims to tackle trauma stemming from community violence in Kansas City youth

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Trauma is a fact of life for many Kansas City youth, especially in the urban core.

On Saturday, researchers, teens and community leaders coming together to examine the hidden consequences of violence in Kansas City.

“This year, we have been losing a lot of our high school students,” East High School senior and Youth Ambassador Tye’Jay Sanders said. “No matter what grade they are in, they still won`t be able to walk that stage. Their parents won`t be able to see that moment, and it hurts my feelings. It doesn`t matter if you were my friend or not.”

Crime not only affects neighborhoods, but it also affects youth and teens.

Last year, five teens were shot and killed. Seven others were injured by gun violence.

The new data collected by researchers is alarming.

“From our data, we found that one in two youth have been exposed to community violence — that can be gun violence, or physical fights — and that also two-thirds of our youth have lost a loved one or family member to community violence,” UMKC School of Medicine professor Jannette Berkley-Patton said. “That`s a lot of violence and exposure.”

Building Bonds community forum was created to address this problem. The goal is to form a partnership between researchers at UMKC, Emory, Youth Ambassadors and community leaders.

The groups come together, all focused on two goals: preserving the lives of youth and addressing their mental trauma.

Mayor Quinton Lucas attended the discussion forum at Kaufman Foundation Conference Center and shared his own personal experiences of growing up in Kansas City.

“I think one of the biggest challenges we have both with public safety, but also with how our community is living today, is that there is a question about the value of life,” Lucas said. “Sometimes, when you are in a neighborhood, when a lot of things go down, you start to minimize them or not know how much it is impacting you. You think that it is normal to hear gunshots every night. You think it’s normal that somebody was killed down the street. I think what we are seeing today is that it is not. And frankly, it is worthwhile having a conversation about it.”

The groups are trying to use not only data, but also community engagement as a process to establish intervention.

More forums and focus groups are planned.

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