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Discussing mental health, violence and race

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Posted at 8:12 PM, Apr 20, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — Mental health and violence. It’s a conversation that followed after a 19-year-old white man killed eight people and injured five others at a FedEx Ground facility on Indy's west side last week. But is it discussed enough when it comes to other shootings that happen on a weekly basis in the Circle City?

“I’m just tired. Right? You’re tired of your hearing this, you’re always tired too when it’s this close to home,” Kia Wright, Founder of VOICES Corporation said. “And then the million dollar question is: Is he Black or White? I think that’s where everybody’s mind immediately went to.”

“You hear the horrible term “Black on Black crime.” You hear all these things. But time and time and time again, it’s a white man doing these mass shootings and it’s not talked about in that scale,” Wright added.

VOICES Corporation provides a variety of services to youth impacted by crime or incarceration in our community.

Wright said she's frustrated. She said the violence we see on a regular basis in Indianapolis has less to do with “Black on Black” crime, as she puts it, but more to do with proximity. It’s interpersonal issues, Wright said, rather than a race problem, that she’s so tired of being depicted.

“Like, it doesn’t need to be addressed, because they’re killing each other,” she said. “They don’t value their own lives, so why should we?”

Citing a study, Wright explained “The PTSD levels are higher in high crime areas than some veterans returning from combat. And so we put that at 15 and 16-year-old kids, what is that doing to their development? It’s stunting everything. Our kids in this program literally see death every day. We’ve had a kid lose eight friends and we’re just in April.”

She said many times with the teens committing violence, their decisions are made from survival mode.

“Rational decision making is hijacked by the brain if it has been traumatized," Brandon Randall, VOICES Corporation Director of Engagement said.

Abuse, neglect, poverty, incarceration are all things that can traumatize a person. At VOICES, they talk about that: How trauma impacts the brain and development.

“When you go through the seven stages of grief, it’s starting over almost every single day,” Wright said. “And then when they make these poor behavior choices, we are blaming the parents, or blaming them. And it’s like well, have we talked about...Have they had counseling for this? Have you talked about that dad has not been in his life due to incarceration? Have we talked about that they’ve seen addiction and domestic violence?”

They teach their children that they can overcome this and work to heal their trauma instead of turning to violence. But Wright said, healing has to be community based, and they need the tools and resources to do that.

“I think we need to tell our stories and have more platforms to be able to talk about all the great news that comes with us so that becomes the norm. Communities need to see us graduating with a masters degree and getting doctorates. They need to see us going into post secondary education. They need to see these things. And it sucks that we have to prove that to anybody. But just start having these conversations, there has to be a counter-narrative, and right now there isn’t.”

To learn more about VOICES, visit