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When I first met Ricky McCoy Sr. in August, I wasn’t sure if he was Rickquese’s grandfather. Rickquese had died in a horrific shooting on 44th Street just one month earlier. McCoy was energetic. His browline glasses moved with his smile, bouncing up every time his teeth showed.

The more I got to know him, the more I realized he was grieving — intensely. Keeping busy and helping the community as a leader on his block was how McCoy coped.

Trauma can be a tricky thing to spot, it turns out.

That was the subject of a KPBS radio and TV segment yesterday. Hosts Maureen Cavanaugh and Peggy Pico spoke with Dana Brown, a grief counselor who appeared in my story on 44th Street, and Audrey Hokoda, a San Diego State University professor who specializes in youth violence.

The pair work together in City Heights and are pushing for more training in trauma-informed care. They say first responders, teachers, police officers — and all community members — need to understand the different ways people react to traumatic events.

“There isn’t a personal life that doesn’t experience a traumatic event,” Brown told Cavanaugh.

Hokoda said that situations related to adversity can amount to “cumulative trauma.”

“This neighborhood has poverty, racism, immigration problems, domestic violence, child abuse, gang violence, high crime,” Hokoda said. “You put all that together and that’s a lot of stressors.”

Trauma isn’t just being depressed or scared temporarily, they said. It can impact classroom behavior, prevent the sufferer from forming healthy relationships and make regulating stress and anger difficult. Brown said trauma is also a biological reaction meant to keep the body safe.

During the course of my reporting on 44th Street, McCoy suffered a mild heart attack. I reluctantly scheduled an interview with him shortly after he had recovered. He told me it was his “body’s way of telling him to slow down.”

Watch the KPBS “Evening Edition” segment below. Audio from the longer “Midday Edition” segment can be heard by clicking under “related audio clips” at the top of this page.

Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her directly at meburks@kpbs.org or 619.550.5665.

Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Megan Burks

Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her...

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