Philly therapist offers free sessions to kids touched by gun violence: 'They are scared'

Akea Williams started offering free sessions to kids touched by trauma. Her clientele exploded in just three months.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- At 18 years old, Hadir Boswell of West Philadelphia says he's lost five friends to gun violence.

"Honestly, I don't know what's to come next, if I'm going to lose another friend, if I'm going to see anyone else the next day," said Boswell.

Boswell, like so many teens across the city who've been touched by this senselessness violence, came out Tuesday to channel that trauma through a basketball tournament in South Philadelphia.

"This is an opportunity to bring young men from all across the city of Philadelphia to come together promoting peace not guns," Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said.

Action News asked teen Zyaree Kasa of South Philly if he feels safe in his neighborhood. He shook his head no.

"Because people are getting killed by guns a lot," Kasa said.

A new study conducted by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia reveals that kids who live within blocks of a shooting are 134 times more likely to go to the ER for mental health issues.

SEE ALSO: Local study examines impact of neighborhood shootings on kids' mental health
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According to researchers in Philadelphia, children who live close to areas where shootings happened are 134% more likely to go to the ER for a mental health issue.



"They are scared. I can tell you out of the 240 kids I talk to, they are scared," said therapist Akea Williams.

In July, Williams started offering free sessions to kids touched by this trauma. Her clientele exploded in just three months.
"They don't know what to do. They don't want to come outside. A lot of them don't want to go to school because the schools are housing places where different beefs are coming from," said Williams of her conversations with children impacted by violence.

Philadelphia's murder rate is up 16% from this time last year.

For teens like Boswell, he just wants to make it into adulthood.

"I try my best to stay away from everything. The only thing I do is just keep my head down and play basketball and go to school," said Boswell. "Honestly, I want to live to be past 21 at this point."

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