Youth violence is a sensitive topic that needs to be looked at from a deeper perspective. I say “sensitive” because it is actually very sad that people my age have lost their life due to this.

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Almost every kid can say they have come face to face with violence in different ways, whether it’s a fight, shooting, bullying or even school threats. Youth violence has been an issue for many, many years but over time has progressively gotten worse. Teens today are killing each other left and right; it has to come to an end. Youth violence takes a huge toll on the youth’s mental, physical and spiritual health today.

Violence has affected my life in many different ways. In September 2021, my friends and I attended a fright night, “The Haunted Hayride.” A young boy was tragically shot and killed a few feet away from me. Although this situation affected many people, this was a really bad experience for me. 

Prior to this, I’ve always been an anxious person and with all of the bad things that go on in the world, I’ve always felt the need to be hyperaware of my surroundings. In the past, I have heard of shootings and have not been allowed to go to certain events because of the possibility that a shooting could occur. 

Do the Write Thing

Jaia Harrison and Deahmi Mobley participated last year in the national Do the Write Thing writing program, in which middle school students write about the causes and effects of youth violence. The students’ writings were read by Duquesne University School of Law students and local leaders. Deahmi and Jaia, now high school freshmen, were chosen as Pittsburgh’s ambassadors and traveled to Washington, D.C. Their essays have been modestly edited with their consent.

This situation really got to me because I was so close to what had happened. The sense of shock that went over my body was something that I never ever felt before. Situations like these can be inevitable and most people have dealt with these things at a point in time, but sometimes it would be nice to go outside and not have to expect the worst.

There are many causes to violence in general, and sometimes the most minor things lead to tragic outcomes. I believe the three main causes of youth violence are bullying, media influence and gang activities. 

But what causes bullying, gang activity or pushes my peers to turn to the media for validation? I don’t have the answer, but I do believe a big portion is to blame on mental health, a topic that is majorly overlooked among my peers. 

Recently my parents bought a new house. It’s a beautiful house that looks amazing on the inside, but soon after we moved in, there were many internal problems that couldn’t be seen by just looking at the walls. That’s the same thing with mental health. Everyone sees a well-appearing, happy person but no one sees the issues that they’re struggling with internally. 

If kids just had someone to talk to and could share their problems, I believe that youth violence could be majorly lessened. Sometimes a simple conversation can go a long way. 

Jaia Harrison (left), a freshman at Northgate Senior High School and one of the Pittsburgh ambassadors to the Do the Write Thing program, with fellow ambassador Deahmi Mobley at PublicSource’s office in Uptown Pittsburgh on Aug. 5, 2022. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

One way youth violence could be fixed is if kids’ mental health was taken more seriously. By doing this, kids can learn in a deeper perspective what’s right and wrong and how to deal with their emotions properly. 

There are many things that kids can do instead of getting wrapped up in drama. For instance, my own personal escape is doing makeup. It’s a way that I can express myself. There are many things that others my age can use as a personal escape, like drawing, modeling or even sports.

In conclusion, youth violence is something that may seem like it will go on forever, but I disagree. To address what may seem like the bigger problems, you have to address the internal problems first. How could you put an end to youth violence?

Jaia Harrison is a freshman at Northgate Senior High School.  If you want to reach Jaia,  please email firstperson@publicsource.org.

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