A 2014 study of 1,609 Allegheny County teens between the ages of 14 and 19 found those who have lost a friend or family member to murder are three times more likely to attempt suicide. In total, 13 percent of those surveyed reported to have suffered this loss.
Lead researcher Patricia Murungi Bamwine, who studies homicide bereavement in the department of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, presented her findings on Tuesday at the American Public Health Association’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Expo in San Diego.
Bamwine said that while the death of a friend or family member is always sad, previous research shows the sudden violence of murder can be particularly traumatic.
“Being able to create a safe space where young people can wrestle with tough questions is really important,” said Bamwine.
The study also found a stark disparity between white and back teens in Allegheny County. Five percent of white kids surveyed know someone who has been murdered, while 52 percent of black kids have lost someone this way.
Bamwine said teens are incredibly resilient and able to persevere, but that there needs to be a comprehensive strategy to address the effects of homicide.
“This isn’t something that politicians can do alone. This isn’t something that the medical community can do alone. This isn’t something that neighborhoods can do alone,” she said. “This has to be a collective effort. This includes youth as well. I think we need youth at the table.”
There are several organizations in Allegheny County working on violence prevention and response, such as the Center For Victims on the South Side, and the Hill District's FOCUS Pittsburgh. Bamwine said considering her research findings, these agencies need more resources.
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