ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Some researchers are comparing inner-city America to war zones. Those experts say an alarming number of children living in those areas suffer from a form of post traumatic stress disorder similar to soldiers coming back from war.
According to one study, one in four inner city children surveyed witnessed violence in their home or in their neighborhood.
That kind of exposure to violence, experts say, leads to long-term issues with mental health and education.
Frankie Edwards was six when he first saw violence up close.
"I was in between a drive-by shooting that happened in North St. Louis, in Baden," he said.
Growing up in Baden, he says seeing gang activity was common.
"Like here are my big cousins inside a big gang, and here are those people who are fighting with them who's like whose side I'm going to choose up? Where am I going to fit in just growing up," he said.
SLU Professor Keon Gilbert believes this kind of ongoing exposure to violence leads to PTSD.
While running through the symptoms of PTSD with Frankie Gilbert, he described the growing up after the traumatic drive-by: "I had flashbacks, dreams, nightmares. Nightmares, then gotta keep looking behind your back. This was at a young age."
"So as a result of the exposure they're having to these kinds of activity, they're not performing well, they're not given an opportunity to live to their full potential," Keon Gilbert said.
Gilbert says it's an issue in urban areas nationwide, and in St. Louis - a city that's seen 52 murders this year. Every year, some of the victims were just kids, and some are witnessed by kids.
"The child's capability to focus, their memory, their attention span is impacted and affected by trauma," Megan Marietta said.
Marietta is the St. Louis Public Schools' manager of Social Work Services. She says that makes learning tough.
"We have experienced working with children who are unfortunately the victims of all sorts of traumas, including abuse and neglect, community violence, domestic violence in the home, being removed from the home as a result of abuse and neglect, war survivors."
Keon Gilbert says there's no perfect fix. However, he says it's important to address systemic issues going on in those communities.
He also says it's not one community's problem. It's a regional and national problem that can be solved.