Gun violence and children's mental health

The silent victims of shootings are the children who witness them.

Besides the physical carnage and lives lost to gun violence, I worry about the mental health casualties left in the wake of such tragedies ("Mass shootings in our midst," Oct. 7).

The often silent victims of such crimes are the children affected by them either as observers or as grievers. These children are not being identified or served in any specific way. As a result they are left to deal with the mental and emotional wounds of gun violence on their own.

While the discussion rages on about gun control, I suggest that we impose a tax on the sale of guns and ammunition as we do cigarettes and alcohol. Take the taxes of gun sales to fund mental health services that target both potential violent offenders and victims of gun violence.

Specifically, I would propose the creation of a "mental health first" response team to ride along with police responding to gun violence. The team would assess, triage and treat the collateral victims of such violence, who are often children.

Too often during my work with the Baltimore City Public Schools, I saw many children respond "yes" to the question of whether they had seen anyone shot or stabbed. Such untreated trauma can often spawn adults who one day may become perpetrators of violence themselves.

Taxing the tools of violence may help in their regulation and tracking, and it could also fund a novel first response system to identify and treat the mental health victims created by gun violence.

Stuart R. Varon, Baltimore

The writer is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

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