INDIANAPOLIS — A new study is examining the lingering effects after someone is shot but not killed.

So far in 2022, more than 462 people have survived a shooting in Indianapolis. However, for both the victim and their family, the trauma is far from over.

A team from the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and IU School of Medicine found that survivors of non-fatal gun violence and their family members—particularly youth—suffer direct and indirect trauma after shootings and face unaddressed challenges on their roads to recovery.

“By understanding the mental health needs of survivors and family members, leaders can work to address the lingering trauma caused by nonfatal shootings,” said O’Neill School Assistant Professor Lauren Magee. “We talk about health equity and wanting to build healthy communities, but that is not possible if gun violence is part of everyday life for any community.”

In the study, Magee and colleagues from IU School of Medicine focused on mental health outcomes for nonfatal shooting survivors and family members. They used police and Medicaid claims data to identify nonfatal shooting survivors and family members.

The team found:

  • A nearly 3% increase in mental health needs for youth family members of non-fatal shooting survivors in the 12 months after the shooting, compared to the previous 12 months.
  • The most prevalent diagnoses for these young people were for disruptive behavior disorder, stress and anxiety disorders, and depression and mood disorders.
  • There is a need for improved trauma-informed services and connection to mental health care for both youth survivors of nonfatal shootings and youth family members of survivors.

Non-fatal shootings leave a survivor to cope with the physical and emotional consequences of their injury and overall health care and mental health related healthcare costs increase by three to twenty times in the six months following a non-fatal firearm injury

From the study

The study found that siblings and children of nonfatal shooting survivors experience the same if not worse mental health outcomes in the 12 months following the shooting compared to shooting survivors.

DeAndre Knox is one shooting survivor that continues to feel the impact of the shooting alongside his family. In February 2014, Knox was at a friend’s birthday party when his life, and his family’s, changed forever. He was shot in the back of the head.

Knox is now 21 years old but is unable to go out with friends and do things that typical 21-year-old people do.

“He is what they call a nonverbal, spastic quadriplegic, terms that you really don’t hear until your life is impacted to the magnitude that ours has been,” said his mother DeAndra Dycus. “My son is paralyzed from the chest down.”

Dycus said many people she encounters do not understand what it truly means to survive a gunshot. She hopes to educate those who don’t while comforting those who know it all too well. She created Purpose 4 My Pain to surround other families impacted by gun violence with love and hope, and to be a voice for loved ones.

The Office of Public Health and Safety recently identified non-fatal shootings as a risk factor for becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence. In its research, the office found that having been previously shot or having friends or family members who have been shot within the last year makes someone more at risk.

The city is actively working to lessen the impact of non-fatal shootings. Mayor Joe Hogsett claims Indianapolis is seeing reductions in gun violence that the city has not seen in over a decade.

Homicides are down 18%, non-fatal shootings are off 11% and aggravated assaults have slumped 16% compared with 2021’s record violence pace.

David Muhammad, executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, said across the country violent crime is off an average of three percent.

”We have seen somewhat similar reductions. Indianapolis, I think, is enjoying a greater one,” he said. “We have a specific goal of at least a ten percent reduction from the previous year. We’re above that goal in both murders and non-fatal shootings.”

Hogsett and IMPD credit the drop to tens of millions of dollars in federal aid that have paid for beefed up community anti-violence programs, violence interrupters who circulate through neighborhoods and crime scenes to reduce the threat of retaliation, enhanced law enforcement technology and targeted investigations that seek out trigger pullers and others most likely to commit violent crimes.

Reporting includes snippets of previous reporting by Courtney Spinelli and Russ McQuaid.