Turning anger and anguish into action

In the aftermath of a devastating two weeks with three mass shootings across our nation, the Erikson community is grieving, and we are angry. We know more than most about the devastating impact trauma has on the development of young brains and bodies, and we have elevated the critical issue of infant and early childhood mental health in the media during this volatile summer, through our analysis of homicide data from Chicago communities.

We also know that hate — whether expressed by a single individual consumed by violent ideology or by structural barriers, like the systemic racism that still segregates neighborhoods in our city — is at the root of much of the trauma facing the children and families we strive to help through our work.

In Chicago this summer, we have had the equivalent of a mass shooting every week. Forty-six people shot across the city in the first weekend of August. More than 1500 people shot in our city since January 1. Most of these shootings are in communities of color, which face more risk factors, yet have limited access to resources than others in our city. We have a long legacy of systemic racism here.

A century ago, race riots electrified the lines of segregation drawn to contain newly arrived African American families seeking better opportunities. Over the past century, those lines have faded, but their impact and stigma have not. The lived experience of too many black and brown children is defined by survival, in spite of a system that does not support their ability to thrive.

Along with the essential clinical and community-based services we are expanding to address trauma across our city, Erikson is also working to dismantle the structures of institutional and systemic racism. We do this by using data, training advocates, and influencing city and state leaders to transform policies that remove barriers, foster equity, and support children, families, and communities. There is a role for everyone in our work, and it is this work that will turn our anguish and our anger into action that can transform our city into one where every child has equitable access to opportunity and resources to realize their full potential.