'Our teens are taking on too much': Recent gun violence is traumatizing for youths, local counselor says | KSTP.com

'Our teens are taking on too much': Recent gun violence is traumatizing for youths, local counselor says

Jessica Miles
Updated: June 07, 2021 06:32 PM
Created: June 07, 2021 03:53 PM

Victims of fatal shootings in the Twin Cities over the past week include several young children, teenagers and young adults.

The deaths have left families and friends devastated, and a mental health professional says seeing these young victims is traumatic for youth trying to comprehend it all.

"Is the trauma different for these teens and young adults when they see 6-year-olds, 9-year-olds, 14-year-olds, 17-year-olds being killed by gun violence, random stray gun violence? Yes, it is," Minneapolis counselor Jason Clopton said.

"It contributes to a teen asking that question, 'Where can I feel safe?'" he added.

Clopton is a mental health professional, known as the "Teen Whisperer" for his ability to get teens to open up to him. He publishes a weekly podcast that gives parents advice on how to connect with their kids.

He says the COVID-19 pandemic was a major source of stress and anxiety for our youth, and the violence on top of it is too much.

"It’s beyond unreal. It’s sad, it’s tragic, it has to stop," Clopton said.

Clopton works with teens in schools and in private settings to address mental health concerns. He said Minnesota needs to become more proactive instead of reacting to situations.

"Right now, we’re a little behind the ball in really tackling community violence," he said. "We can’t wait for another baby to get shot to do something. We need to make some changes now."

Clopton said parents need to help undo the messaging and change the narrative to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

"Parents, get creative, let your children know, 'Hey, mom, dad — we struggle too sometimes. Here are some things we do to cope with that stress, or here are some things we do to manage those times when we’re feeling down or those times when we’re extremely worried about what’s going to happen next,' rather than leaving our children to figure it out for themselves," Clopton said.

He also said mental maintenance is crucial, as is blending personal values with those of the community to forge lasting connections for our youth.

"We have to understand that they’re dealing with a lot, and it continues to compile on, and we can’t let it keep happening like that. Our teens are taking on too much," Clopton said.

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