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Full Circle: The mental toll shootings across the nation are taking on society

"Through all of this, I have learned that life is precious and you can't take time for granted"
Uvalde School Shooting
Posted at 7:22 AM, May 30, 2023

Gun violence in America seems to be an endless cycle with no end in sight.

As of May 30, 2023, the Gun Violence Archive has reported 262 mass shootings this year.

While legislatures continue their ongoing debate on what should be done and what action needs to be taken or where the attention should be shed, victims of gun violence struggle to move forward and often live a new life that they didn't anticipate.

Kimberly Walker understands the toll a shooting can take on a family.

"Through all of this, I have learned that life is precious and you can't take time for granted," Walker said.

On December 6, 2019, her perspective changed.

Three people were killed at Pensacola's Naval Air station.

One of them was 19-year-old Mohammed Haitham, or Mo as Walker and her family called him.

He was her son's best friend and a friend of the family.

The toll of Haitham's death has spanned years.

"Definitely trauma. Each of us from in how we found out. We all have pain associated with it or trauma associated with it," Walker said. "I feel like I almost don't have the right to say that because thinking of his family because if my pain and the impact on us is so significant, I can't even imagine their grief and pain."

Dr. Joseph Sakran with Johns Hopkins understands that.

As a trauma surgeon, he's seen the impact of gun violence right in front of him and to him.

At the age of 17, Dr. Sakran was shot in the throat with a .38 caliber bullet.

"I had a ruptured windpipe. I had an injury to the big blood vessel in my neck. I had a paralyzed vocal cord, so I had a pretty significant injury that you know not everyone survives," Dr. Sakran said.

That moment pushed him to pursue medicine but now the hardest part of his profession is not treating shooting victims but rather the trauma after.

"The worst part of my job is having to walk into those waiting rooms and to explain to those moms and dads that their child that left that morning is never coming home again. Every time I do that, a piece of me dies," Dr. Sakran said.

As a society, he said people have become somewhat numb to mass shootings and called it a complex public health problem.

"No one person or organization is going to solve this problem. It requires a multidisciplinary approach that cuts across sectors," Dr. Sakran said.

Mental health educator Natasha Pierre said people are scared, and justifiably so.

She said the first way to battle the problem is to start talking.

As a mental health educator, she has seen the mental toll shootings across the country have taken on our society and herself included.

"I seldom go to the grocery store. For me, I would always go to the grocery store," Pierre said.

We're in a society, Pierre said, where shootings are affecting everyone and we're pretending not to know or carry a burden of guilt when it's not our loved one who has been killed.

Pierre said what everyone needs to remember is we are all human.

"It's hard for everyone in different ways, so that's why I say we need compassion. You know, I live for the day when we no longer have to say, 'You never know what someone is going through.' Just take it as a default that everyone is going through something whether you see it or not," Pierre said.

Pierre recommends finding a support group, and if you don't want to talk, that's okay. Just listen.

"When you see that there are other people just like you, it kind of opens you up. You hear their coping strategies. You hear what they're doing to get through and it allows you to begin to create a strategy to deal with whatever you are going through," Pierre said.

That strategy has helped the Walkers — especially Kimberly's daughter, Savannah.

"I think we don't talk enough about the mental toll of people afterwards. Whether it's people who were in the shooting or people like myself who are not directly in it. It's important to still have people share their experience. Sharing how they're feeling and how to cope with that and how to experience life afterwards," Savannah Walker said.

For more information on support groups, visit: