Daily Press (Sunday)

Survivors of gun violence also need attention

- By Dr. Selwyn O. Rogers Jr. and Dr. Robert A. Barish Dr. Selwyn O. Rogers Jr., MPH, FACS, is founding director of the University of Chicago Medicine’s trauma center. Dr. Robert A. Barish, MBA, is vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Ill

While we were connecting with others at a medical conference, Dr. Selwyn O. Rogers Jr.’s pager started sounding, drawing the attention of those nearby. It read, “4 people shot, 1 killed.” Dr. Robert A. Barish shook his head and replied, “What about the other three? It’s a shame that they will be forgotten tomorrow. Bullets tend to seek the spinal cord — and these injuries dramatical­ly alter a person’s life.”

This scenario plays out time after time as we witness an increasing number of incidents of gun violence, such as the recent mass shooting in Maine. It is incredibly important to mourn and honor the lives of those who have been taken from us tragically and unexpected­ly. It is equally important to recognize and support the recovery of the individual­s who survive gun violence and bear both physical and emotional scars, some that never heal.

The U.S. Government Accountabi­lity Office reports the shocking statistic that in 2019, nearly 40,000 people died directly from a firearm injury. Perhaps even more shocking is that about double that number of people suffered nonfatal injuries from shootings. Moreover, this data reflects only the quantifiab­le physical injuries and does not account for the many thousands, dare we say hundreds of thousands, of people who carry the emotional trauma of witnessing violence, know those who have been killed or are supporting the injured, or are otherwise affected by these events.

In the same way that our health care teams are expected to tend to the wounded and help these patients find a return to some normalcy after their injuries, our communitie­s should come together to address the invisible scars of gun violence in our neighborho­ods and across the country. By treating gun violence as the epidemic that it is, we can approach it through a public health lens and consider what resources and policy tools can be used to support all those injured on their road to healing and leading more fulfilling, happy lives.

There are three elements to consider to begin to address the issues of gun violence in America and efforts to support all victims of gun violence. First, we must elevate the conversati­on around gun violence to include all survivors, their families and loved ones and the communitie­s affected. Gun violence is a matter of public health, and our health care community can play a critical voice in centering the public’s awareness of this issue while creatively exploring how we might afford the same sort of resources to this issue as we do for other public health emergencie­s.

Further, there are ways to fund a

support system to benefit the recovery efforts for all individual­s suffering from the impacts of gun violence. It’s important to recognize that there are some compensati­on programs already in place. In many cases, the individual­s who need this support the most have the most trouble accessing these resources right after their injury. Now is the opportunit­y for us to expand these programs and ensure that this funding can be more easily accessed to meet the immediate needs of these survivors.

And of course, there are many other options at our disposal that require investment and organizati­on, from counseling services and support groups to increased prevention research funding and enhanced ways of reporting firearm-related injury data. These are just some of the ways in which America could begin to address the vast and growing needs of gun violence survivors.

Gun violence leaves in its wake physical, emotional, financial and legal consequenc­es. As a nation of survivors, we must harness collective action across all levels of our country to address this growing epidemic.

As more individual­s experience, witness and fear the threat of gun violence, we must support the recovery efforts for all those who forever have had their lives altered by this traumatic encounter.

It’s time that we stand together to support our shared road to recovery to restore trust in our communitie­s, our neighborho­ods and our country.

 ?? ANGELA WEISS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/TNS ?? Police tape blocks off the street near Schemengee­s Bar & Grille in Lewiston, Maine, on Oct. 27 in the aftermath of a mass shooting.
ANGELA WEISS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/TNS Police tape blocks off the street near Schemengee­s Bar & Grille in Lewiston, Maine, on Oct. 27 in the aftermath of a mass shooting.

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