The stress of experiencing high levels of community violence harms entire families. (skynesher/E+ via Getty Images)
By Loren Henderson and Ruby Mendenhall, The Conversation, May 3, 2023
Black mothers are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to the mental and physical harms of stress from living with gun violence in America.
In the U.S., Black people are likelier than white people to reside in impoverished, racially segregated communities with high levels of gun violence. Research has suggested that living in violent and unsafe environments can result in continuous traumatic stress, a constant form of PTSD. Researchers have also linked experiences of violence and poverty to an increased risk of chronic disease such as cancer and cardiovascular, respiratory and neurodegenerative diseases.
We are Black women and public policy and sociology professors who study health inequities and sustainable policy solutions. Our research has found that Black mothers who feel trapped in neighborhoods they perceived as unsafe because of high levels of community violence are more likely to report elevated PTSD and depression symptoms, as well as elevated stress hormone levels.