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Portsmouth community comes together to discuss link between violence and mental health

One social worker said she believes the recent uptick in violence and mental health are heavily connected.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — In the last eight days, more than a dozen people have been shot in Portsmouth. Five of them on Tuesday.

"We had five shootings before 12:00 noon," said Portsmouth teacher and coach Jenson Baker.

In light of the recent violence, community members came together Wednesday night to address mental health.

"I’m seeing younger people not knowing how to deal with conflict, not knowing how to resolve it. They’re not fighting anymore, they’re not bickering. They’re picking up guns and they’re shooting one another," one mom told the crowd. She almost lost her daughter to suicide. 

Baker teaches a mindfulness class at Churchland Academy Elementary School. He said it teaches self-control and impulse control. Baker also said it’s important to start that practice young.

"We can’t attack this externally," he said "Different type of mentorship programs are good, but it has to be attacked internally."

Angel Bunton is a licensed clinical social worker. She said mental health and crime are heavily connected.

"A lot of people who have been incarcerated and things like that have experienced a good deal of trauma as so as opposed to being reactionary. I think it’s very important that we get in front of the problem," she said.

Bunton said even people who just drive by the crime scenes or experience trauma second hand can be affected.

"People can experience what they call vicarious trauma. That means you’re experiencing trauma through the other person, the person that you’re watching," she said.

The consensus in the room was that something needs to happen sooner rather than later.

The Portsmouth Police Department invites the public to join them for a community walk Thursday. The plan is to meet at the "Toddler Time Development Center" at 5:30 p.m. Officers will speak with residents about their concerns.

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