Kids exposed to city's violence could face PTSD

CREATED Jul 8, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - The children who hear gunshots and see crime scene tape in their neighborhoods are likely to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, according to researchers.


Makayla Criss, Tatianna Robinson and Amari Bolton are three young girls who know about gun violence first hand. Back in June they were caught in the crossfire while inside Sparkle Foods on Milwaukee’s north side. Two gunmen came in firing several rounds in an attempted robbery. A bullet hit 11 year-old Makayla in her leg.

The violent gun battle happened in their neighborhood just a block away from their home.

“I pray that God gets the people who have weapons, get their minds straight,” explained 8 year-old Amari.

But what about the young minds of victims? Take 17 year-old Tatianna. In three short years she explained how many friends she lost on the streets.

“Eight people so far. One died on the corner by my house,” said Tatianna.

And now she fears next time she may not make it out alive.

The emotional toll the violence is taking on these girls and the other children living in these high crime areas is taxing.

According to Milwaukee Police the number of children under 18 involved in gun violence is up 47% since 2010. From January through mid June of 2014, 58 children have been injured or targeted by guns. A research study by the Center for Disease Control showed kids living in inner cities developed post traumatic stress disorder at higher rates than soldiers back from combat.

The study suggested because the children never get to the leave the violent neighborhoods, they often experience the trauma repeatedly .

“They made my life scary,” said Amari.

Tatianna hasn’t talked to anyone about the June robbery where a gun was pointed at her. She admitted she’s holding it inside and keeping it to herself.

“That’s enough to start someone on the way towards developing PTSD,” said Chad Wetterneck.

Wetterneck is a psychologist with Rogers Memorial Hospital PTSD Treatment Center. He said talking about your feelings is key.

“People are less likely to develop PTSD if they’re able to engage in discussion about it,” said Wetterneck.

Wetterneck added if a child developed PTSD and it goes on untreated it could lead to violent behavior.

“It’s very possible with anger being the predominant dominance to PTSD,” explained Wetterneck.

Makayla’s mother, Tamika Criss  said she plans to get her entire family in therapy.

“We’re looking at individual and group sessions.  I want her to overcome this because it’s kind of hard right now,” said Criss.

In most cases therapy is easily available to the victims. But there are limited resources available to help the children who witness the gun violence daily.

Wraparound Milwaukee offers help to children with serious emotional needs. You can visit their site or call 414-257-7639.