MCKEESPORT – Attorney General Michelle Henry recently met with a dozen McKeesport Senior High School students to discuss the impact and toll of gun violence on the students’ mental health and well-being.
Also in attendance for a roundtable discussion were Dr. Kristie Zoller, a child psychologist from the Laughlin Children’s Center; Brittney Kline, the Program Director for “Safe2Say Something PA”; McKeesport School District’s superintendent, Dr. Tia Wanzo; and other school leaders.
“Gun violence is an epidemic that affects the lives of Pennsylvanians every single day,” Attorney General Henry said. “Gun violence not only kills and causes physical wounds, it hurts our loved ones in another, unseen way – harming their mental health. I am here in McKeesport, as we look forward to Gun Violence Awareness Month in June, to hear directly from these students and learn from them the impact this epidemic is having on young people in our Commonwealth.”
This roundtable is the beginning of a series of discussions that the Office of Attorney General plans to do across the Commonwealth with young people from various school districts. Students shared how they learn about gun violence, shootings, and violence in their communities. One student read a poem she wrote in class as a reaction to gun violence in her community; others talked about their lived experiences, losing family members, and their feelings of frustration at having to adapt to the reality of regularly-occurring gun violence in their lives.
Furthermore, students were asked how adults can better support their mental health, including how to improve communication between adults and teens, and what positive experiences the students rely upon to build resilience. Students were encouraged to engage with school-based resources for information, counselor support, and existing relationships to cope with incidents of gun violence in the community.
McKeesport High School is one of many schools participating in the Office of Attorney General’s Safe2Say Something program. This program allows students to anonymously report instances of violence at their schools, including gun violence, bullying, or threats of suicide.
# # #