On Friday, June 13, 1975, at the age of seven, I survived an armed robbery, but witnessed the murder of my mother, her boyfriend, and my godmother, in Harlem, New York City.
Although I suffered from a gunshot wound, it was the mental scars that resulted in the most significant damage. Several years after this tragic event, I was clinically diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. (PTSD)
Although there are many causes of deaths in the United States, I will focus primarily on murder, suicide, and drug overdose in America during this three part series. Crying is a natural emotional response to certain feelings, usually sadness and hurt. These are issues that can CERTAINLY make one cry.
Although the 30 largest cities in the United States experienced a double digit increase in their murder rate in 2016, crime nationwide remained near all-time lows. Even with that being the case, one thing remains constant and that's death, no matter the cause, leaves behind a trail of hurt and pain for the loved ones of the deceased.
Generally, whenever the topic of violence is mentioned in the United States, it becomes heavily politicized (stricter gun control vs right to bear arms) by both conservatives and liberals with neither side willing to give an inch. No matter what any of us attribute to the increase related to murders in America, Congress, and state governments don't appear to provide any viable solutions or suggestions to help without dividing their constituents.
Chicago is the first city that comes to mind whenever the subjects of violence or homicide are mentioned. According to the Chicago Tribune, the city is on pace to have a deadlier year than 2016, when gun violence reached levels not seen in 20 years. Also, according to the Chicago Tribune, combined with other cases, such as strangulations and stabbings, the number of homicides reached 400 on July 27, 2017.
Chicago Police Department records indicate that for the first six months of 2017, more than 90 percent of the city's homicide victims were slain by gunfire. Also, according to a recent study, (University of Chicago-January 2017) 72 percent of homicides in Los Angeles, CA in 2016 were committed with guns.
Most experts are uncertain to what might be driving the increase in homicides, which are generally linked to gang conflicts and are concentrated on the West and South sides of the city. But, some strongly believe the plethora of guns in the city and the opioid epidemic as the main contributors. Just one day after the Chicago Tribune published the above-mentioned article, 28-year-old Nikia Betts was fatally shot and her 4-year-old son was wounded (arm) by gunfire in Chicago.
Not only did the person or persons responsible for her death leave behind a trail of hurt and pain, the victim's son and other witnesses were left emotionally traumatized and will more than likely be diagnosed with some form of an anxiety disorder such as PTSD. This resonates with me because I was just a child when I witnessed shooting and stabbing deaths.
Violent crimes and murder used to be considered strictly an issue for big urban America, but over the past decade has become a growing problem in small and mid-size cities. Also, one growing epidemic that has become prevalent in both urban and small/mid-size America is the increase in opioid (heroin) use.
Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription painkillers, nearly quadrupled. (CDC) Part two of this series will address this epidemic.