Vero Beach, FL

Dramatic rise of gun violence amid teens and young adults – Treasure Coast resources to help before tragedy strikes

Ellen Contreras
Families comforting each other after shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TXNPR

Mass shootings have been increasing over the years but for the last few years have been quite dramatic. Even more disturbing is the trend of teens and young adults involved in these high-profile events.

According to the Pew Research Center, the FBI has been tracking active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2020. In 2000, there were 3 events and in 2020 that number rose to 40. The FBI defines an “active shooter” as one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. Click here for the full report.

Wikipedia has also been compiling data of mass shootings and since the pandemic began in 2020, the numbers have increased dramatically. As of July 2022, there have been 337 mass shootings with 387 dead and 1,405 wounded. What makes this trend even more disturbing is the rise of teens and young adults committing these deadly attacks.
Makeshift memorial for victims of mass shooting at Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, NYCBS News

May is National Mental Health Awareness month and there were two deadly mass shootings in May that involved young adults. On May 14, 2020, 18-year-old Payton Gendron was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder for the shooting of 10 people and injuring 3 others at Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, NY.
Police officer and student share moment of grief at makeshift memorial at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TXFox News

Ten days later on May 24th, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos killed 19 students and 2 teachers and wounded 17 others at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. Before the shooting at the school, he gravely wounded his grandmother by shooting her in the face.
Candlelight vigil for victims of mass shooting at Highland Park, IL Independence Day paradeChicago Tribune

On July 4th, 21-year-old Robert Crimo III was arrested for the mass shooting at an Independence Day Parade in Highland Park, IL, where seven people were killed and 46 others wounded.

People in these communities were reeling in grief and shock with many saying they couldn’t believe something like this happened where they live, that these things happen elsewhere. The focus of this article is not on what we should do about gun law reformation. The focus is on how we can help our youth so we can reverse this horrible and destructive trend. This article will also narrow the scope to resources on the Treasure Coast of Florida.

Today’s youth is struggling to cope with so many issues over and above peer pressure and less-than-ideal home environments. Social media has been a huge problem. The pandemic has also brought a lot of these issues to the forefront.

Often after a mass shooting incident occurs, especially one committed by a young adult, people come forward with stories of how the perpetrator was a loner, bereft of friends, aggressive, angry, etc. This is not to imply that people who are shy or keep to themselves will turn violent.

Here is a list of mental health agencies, medical professionals and therapists on the Treasure Coast that help children, young adults, and parents. While there are other things we should also focus on to reduce the incidents of gun violence, focusing on people and the human element, is a great place to start.

Mental Health Association 820 37th Pl. Vero Beach. This organization helps children and adults alike with a variety of mental health needs. The initial consultation is free, and they work on a sliding-scale based on household income to try and accommodate a variety of financial situations. You can walk-in without an appointment for assessment Mon – Fri from 8:30am to 5pm. They offer individual treatment, self-help groups and group therapy. The list of services and conditions treated is vast and all the details are on the website.

Hibiscus Children’s Center is a non-profit organization with facilities throughout the Treasure Coast that help children who are abused and neglected providing a safe shelter along with a variety of programs to assist them and their parents, such as residential and emergency services, mental health services and career preparation programs. Their focus is on prevention, early intervention, and advocacy to help children transcend abusive situations and transition to adulthood successfully to go on and lead productive, fulfilling lives. Check out their recent interview on iHeart radio.

Anchor of Hope Therapy is the practice of Dr. Larthenia Howard located in Fort Pierce, FL. Before starting her practice, she had a long-standing career in education as a teacher and principal. A large part of her therapy services focuses on family and children. She specializes in getting children and teens to open up and talk about the issues they are dealing with. Teens often shut parents out, and Dr. Howard works with families to open those doors of communication. Check out one of her media appearances here.

Helping People Succeed 1601 NE Braille Pl. Jensen Beach. This organization has programs to help babies and children get a healthy and successful start in their development as it relates to health and education. They also have job preparedness and training programs for young adults, including those with disabilities, as well as job placement services. This organization’s goal is to help people realize their potential and to succeed in life. Their services cover the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee. Learn more about them on their iHeart radio appearance.

New Horizons of the Treasure Coast 4500 W Midway Rd, Fort Pierce. This organization helps children and adults in mental health and substance abuse crisis. They have the most comprehensive scope of services covering the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee. They have been around since 1958 and have nine facilities helping people regardless of their ability to pay.

Erin Lawler Patterson is known as The Goodness Chick and was also known as the drug lady as she was the substance abuse coordinator at a high school in New Jersey. She knows how to get on their level, earn their trust and get teens talking. Erin now resides in Vero Beach and is a counselor, author, international speaker, and podcaster. She works with people of all ages focusing on mental health, wellness, addictions, and relationships. Learn all about her and her work on one of her many media appearances here.

Helen Jessup Murray is a licensed mental health counselor, and her practice is Creative Counseling Center located at 1850 43rd Ave. C11 Vero Beach. She works with people ages 12-80, families and individuals alike. When it comes to helping teens and families, a couple of things she focuses on is coping skills for teens and communication within the family. Helen also provides a comprehensive list of services that include individual, couples, and group therapy. Check out her media interview.

Gwen McLeod is the founder, and Executive Director of We Leap, a non-profit organization that focuses on breaking the cycle of domestic abuse. She helps not only the victims of abuse but the abusers as well. They offer group counseling sessions and host a variety of events. Breaking the cycle of domestic violence not only helps families but communities as well. Learn about them and watch the iHeart interview here.

Balanced Wellness Center 3725 12th Ct. Ste. A Vero Beach. Dr. Susana Marikle is a licensed Clinical Psychologist whose practice centers around health and sports psychology and eating disorders. However, she also works with patients who are dealing with a variety of issues including coping skills, depression, anxiety, grief, low self-worth, OCD and more. She treats people on an individual basis, young adults on up, and will include family members in sessions for specific situations. Learn about Dr. Marikle’s practice and her iHeart interview here.

Here is one final resource worth noting because their membership list is an excellent list of resources for people who are looking for help for themselves or a loved one and need a place to start: Mental Health Collaborative of Indian River County.

The Treasure Coast has a wonderful amount of mental health resources to help children, teens and adults cope with stress, anxiety, and a range of serious mental health issues to put them back on the road to living whole, happy, and productive lives.

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Ellen Contreras is also known as the Treasure Coast Connector because she shares information and writes articles that connects business owners to consumers in the community - Florida's Treasure Coast and beyond. Ellen is an iHeart Radio talk show host at Planet Vero. Her show, Treasure Coast Connector, airs on Saturdays at 3pm on WCZR 101.7FM (Stuart to Melbourne, FL). She also writes helpful articles and shares opinions on careers, business development, the Florida lifestyle and more. Follow Ellen on: Livestream - iHeart radio talk show: Spreaker:

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