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An overlooked effect of Salinas' gang problem

An overlooked effect of Salinas' gang problem

Picture of Kimber Solana

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a dangerous event.

The city of Salinas has seen its share of dangerous events especially in the last couple of years with record setting gang violence. In 2008, Salinas saw a record 25 homicides – 24 of which were gang-related. The following year, the record was broken after the city saw 29 homicides – all of which were gang-related. The city, with a population of about 150,000, ranked fourth among large California cities in homicide rates in 2008 and 2009.

This year, Salinas has seen 16 gang-related slayings.

My major project proposal for the California Health Journalism Fellowship will explore how gang violence have affected the mental health of those involved, and what resources, if any, are available to them.

Studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice have linked PTSD and gang violence. A 1991 study on the traumatic effects of violence on Latino gang members showed that a greater degree of violence resulted in more PTSD symptoms.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD symptoms include panic disorder, depression, substance abuse and feeling suicidal. It is mainly treated through psychotherapy, or "talk" therapy, medications or both.

Many Salinas and Monterey County gang members and associates, along with those who were formerly involved, have shown signs of post traumatic stress disorder, according to local counselors and nonprofits.

In all, exploring the link between mental health and gang violence is nothing new. But with the upsurge of gang violence in recent years in Salinas, the project will be a fascinating and educational story for the community of Salinas.

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If you're a journalist with big ideas who wants your work to matter, the Center for Health Journalism invites you to apply for the all-expenses-paid-- five days of stimulating discussions in Los Angeles about social and health safety net issues, reporting and engagement grants of $2,000-$12,000 and six months of expert mentoring.