Carilion Clinic hosts town hall for parents on addressing Roanoke’s increase in gun violence

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 6:23 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Parents and community members heard from health experts Tuesday about ways to discuss gun violence with children. Mental health experts and community leaders agreed that the recent increase of gun violence in the Roanoke Valley is a public health crisis.

Carilion Clinic’s town hall comes after the community has had two teen deaths by gun violence in just the last two weeks.

Dr. Deneen Evans, a clinician and co-owner at Mosaic Mental Wellness and Health, is one of several mental health professionals joining in on the discussion of gun violence in the Roanoke Valley.

“Too many of our young people of color in the valley have been dying as a result of gun violence,” Dr. Evans said.

A school counselor at Roanoke City Public Schools explained the recent acts of violence are taking its toll on both parents and children.

“Our kids are faced with adult issues every day,” Ashley Carle said. “The feeling of safety, while it needs to be a priority, these kids don’t feel safe.”

One tip experts shared is to have parents address their own concerns to start the conversation.

“Parents who come from these communities are dealing with a lot,” Dr. Evans said. “Then when they have to start thinking about trauma, these words that we use, and how to help their children, we have to help the parents first so that they can help the children.”

A child and adolescent psychiatrist at Carilion Clinic explained maintaining a relationship of trust with teens is important.

“That open dialogue creates an opportunity to not just help protect a kid from engaging in unsafe things online. but then the kid being able to come and say when somebody’s posted something that’s worrying,” Dr. Kate Liebesny said.

All the panel speakers emphasized the need for community involvement and action for gun violence prevention.

“Be a part of the solution,” Carle said.

One speaker from Roanoke’s Total Action for Progress explained how community partners are looking forward to being part of the conversation.

“The community is paying attention and we just need more people to do that,” Stacey Sheppard said.

Experts also talked about ways parents could model the behavior they want to see in their kids. Health professionals explained that by parents expressing empathy and their concerns, that starts the conversation of addressing children’s mental health.

You can watch Tuesday afternoon’s town hall in its entirety here.