With Indianapolis breaking its record of gun deaths in 2018 within weeks, first responders and hospitals have much more than the pandemic on their hands.
INDIANAPOLIS – 2020 marks the deadliest year for gun homicides in the US since 1996, according to the CDC for previous years and the Gun Violence Archives for this year.
With the break in Indianapolis in 2018, first responders and hospitals have way more than just the pandemic in their hands. Eskenazi Health, Indianapolis EMS and IU Health report to 13News that they have seen an increase in trauma cases this year.
“The gunshot wounds inflicted on themselves and others were really alarming,” said trauma surgeon Dr. Ashley Meagher of the IU Health Methodist Hospital, who also works in emergency surgery and intensive care medicine.
Statistically, gun violence tends to increase in the summer, and the numbers of trauma cases in Indianapolis have increased overall this year.
“August and September were the busiest months for Methodist trauma in the past five years,” Meagher said.
Eskenazi Health said gunshot wounds increased 26 percent year-over-year – and all penetration wounds increased 22 percent.
IEMS said they saw 640 gunshot wounds (self-inflicted and non-self-inflicted) from January to November, compared to 561 in all of 2019 and 504 in all of 2018. The surge for the IEMS first started in May, where you saw 64 shots in the In contrast to 49 in 2019 and 27 in 2018 in the same month.
If you or someone you know may need help, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for yourself or someone else. This is free and confidential at 1-800-273-8255.
Where do most of the murders take place?
As in many major American cities, the Indianapolis killings are not spread across the city.
In a report from the IU Center for Health and Justice Research, which collected data from 2014 to 2016, the Indianapolis shootings during that period were mostly concentrated on three percent of the city’s street segments and weren’t necessarily reserved for the most violent neighborhoods.
The link between murders and poverty is cyclical and the root cause debate is compared to which came first, the chicken or the egg.
What are the factors?
“During the quarantine period in April and May, when people had had just enough of what was going on, there was an increase (in self-inflicted and non-self-inflicted gunshot wounds),” Meagher said. She noted that people’s stress had increased and tensions were high with everything that was going on.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment reached its first record high in April.
Marking what the office calls “the highest rate and increase in data history during the month (available through January 1948)”.
“Poverty is a risk factor for violent crime and victimization at both the individual and national levels. At the individual level, people can resort to violent crime in order to survive. High levels of violence can also lower property values and undermine business growth, exacerbating poverty, which in turn can lead to further violence, ”according to the United Nations Office ‘Drugs and Crime’ 2019 ‘Global Study on Murder’.
Regardless of what causes what, research suggests a strong correlation between poverty and murder, but how the relationship affects gun violence is still open to debate.
The United Nations found that the ratio between poverty and murder is 40 percent of the rate of variation in murder. In the IU’s aforementioned research report, the IU Center for Health and Justice Research found that between 2014 and 2016, social disorders increased the likelihood of gun violence by six percent. The UNODC states that “the exact relationship between income inequality and crime (violent) is still a matter of debate. Income inequality can increase crime in several ways – for example, by escalating social tensions or by creating a situation where crime offers better economic returns than legal activity. “
Trauma doesn’t just mean guns
The IU Health Methodist Hospital said the 2020 surge in trauma cases wasn’t just due to murders being committed in the city.
“Trauma is something that can happen to anyone,” said Meagher. “The motorcycle accidents, motor vehicle accidents, as we always see them in the summer, were much higher.”
She noted that due to the pandemic, more people are active outdoors than indoors and this lifestyle change may be contributing to that.
“Even when they’re not out and about that much, they get in cars and drive or, when the weather is nice, get on a motorcycle,” Meagher said.
These trauma – whether through accidents, armed violence or accidents – have meant an increase for trauma units.
“As the pandemic has progressed, the number of trauma patients has increased to around 100 patients per month than we normally would have. June, July, August and September have all been phenomenally busy months for us, ”said Meagher.
COVID is still part of the equation
While trauma units don’t focus on COVID-19, that doesn’t mean the pandemic isn’t part of the equation for these healthcare workers.
“If the percentage positivity goes up, it will increase our risk,” said Meagher, who has a person with a weakened immune system in her household.
She said she discusses with her husband weekly whether to check into a hotel.
“Find another place to live because there is an option to bring it home and that just adds an extra layer of stress and tension,” Meagher said.
Trauma cases are avoidable
“It’s a bit daunting that we’ve had so many trauma patients this year,” Meagher said.
She said that she and other trauma surgeons are aiming to “put their specialization out of business” because the wounds and injuries they treat can be prevented through contact, education and prevention training.
Health professionals are heroes, but they are also people.
“As a trauma surgeon, I’ve learned a certain degree of resilience and know when to accept something and only have to move one thing,” said Meagher.
When it comes to treating suicide attempts, it is frustrating for Meagher.
“It is very frustrating for me to see the increase in self-inflicted wounds because I believe these are completely preventable. It inspires me to be more active in my community helping people get access to care before the time comes, ”she added.
Meagher said starting the quilting program at IU Health Methodist Hospital helped her navigate the toughest days. The program offers end-of-life quilts to patients. Meagher said she also tries to get to know her patients through their families and is looking for ways to honor their life and legacy.
Meagher said it was unacceptable to normalize this surge in violence.
“We’re all human, and even if we don’t agree, we have to work it out and talk it out. We have to breathe and just stop and realize that violence is not the answer, ”Meagher said.
“It will be a long time before we are healthy and return to lower levels of violence,” Meagher said.
If you or someone you know may need help, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for yourself or someone else. This is free and confidential at 1800-273-8255.
WTHR conducted the interview with Dr. Ashley Meagher on Zoom in a joint call with IU Health Public Relations.