A new study finds that shooting survivors may not seek the mental health services they need after experiencing gun violence due to stigma, fear and a lack of trusted resources. The study, led by assistant professor Lauren Magee with the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Indianapolis, is featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open.
Magee and her partners with Stop the Violence Indianapolis interviewed survivors of gun violence in the Indianapolis area, all of whom were between the ages of 13 and 34 at the time they were shot. The study did not include survivors of shootings that involved fatalities.
“Despite describing symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders, half of participants we spoke with believed they were adequately coping without formal services,” Magee explains.
Thirty-nine percent said they did not seek professional help due to a fear of potential repercussions from peers for providing information to police or health providers, while 56% said they did not seek mental health assistance because they did not trust providers.
“Most of the survivors we spoke with said if they were to seek professional help, it was important the provider understood their lives and communities,” Magee adds. “They need to know they can trust the person they’re speaking with, and that the provider comes to the conversation with a good understanding of their lived experiences.”
The research team found survivors preferred receiving support from their existing networks instead of professionals. In fact, 83% of the survivors surveyed said they relied on their families and friends for physical and mental healing, whether serving as primary support or through connecting them to mental health care. Responses from survivors also showcase the broad impact nonfatal shootings have on their families—emotionally and in day-to-day life—highlighting a need for broader recovery support.
These study results are critical for those seeking to help the survivors of gun violence, as they can use the information to create and develop appropriate support systems for survivors and their families.
Researchers note the key takeaways as being the need for trusted resources within communities for survivors and families and the importance of a credible provider who understands their life experiences.
Magee’s coauthors on the study included IU School of Medicine’s Damaris Ortiz and Zachary W. Adams. IUSM faculty Brigid Marriott, Matthew Aalsma, and Sarah Wiehe also contributed to the study.