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Local Violence Poses Health Concerns

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Art by Max Rubin for the Daily Trojan

By Natalie Chau, Brooke Sanders and Lucas Griffin

This week, the USC community mourned the death of two graduate students, Ying Wu and Ming Qu, after a fatal shooting in the area west of USC's campus. There was no denying that a dark cloud hung over campus.

Grieving is a natural process that most of us have been through at some point in our lives.

Still, people might not be aware of the potential long-term physical and mental effects of violence that hits so close to home.

USC needs to take a stand and assure current and incoming students that it has their health in mind.

This assurance should take the form of better off-campus safety measures as well as more visible on-campus health services.

According to Human Impact Partners, neighborhood crime causes feelings of fear and insecurity.

In a study from Greenwich, London, participants who said they were afraid to leave their homes during the day were "64 [percent] more likely to be in the lowest quartile of mental health."

Another study at the New York Academy of Medicine found that women who witnessed violent acts in their neighborhood were twice as likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.

People who live in neighborhoods where they fear for their safety are more likely to experience myriad physical ailments, too. Obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure are common problems for people living in violent areas.

In reality, the USC area is not necessarily more or less unsafe than other parts of Los Angeles -- and the shooting last week is more of an anomaly than a common occurrence.

But what counts most is how people perceive their environment.

Students who need to worry about studying for their final might not feel safe staying on campus late at night, knowing that Campus Cruiser stops providing cars at 2:45 a.m.

How comfortable USC students feel in and around campus has a direct impact on their schoolwork, health and social interactions.

As recently accepted students debate between USC and other universities, one has to wonder: How is USC going to assure students and parents that the surrounding neighborhood is safe?

Though there is no way to guarantee that an event like this will never happen again, increasing the number and hours of the CSC security ambassadors, increasing Campus Cruiser hours of operation and installing more lighting and security cameras on the streets surrounding USC are all means by which USC could increase security, along with the confidence USC students have in their safety.

Ensuring that students have peace of mind in their neighborhoods is important. Many students live on the west side for cheaper housing options, and they should not have to sacrifice their safety or comfort simply because they can't afford to live elsewhere.

USC needs to realize that neighborhood safety is also important in the context of the greater student body's mental and physical health. The impact of violence in a neighborhood goes beyond the first few weeks.

Natalie Chau, Brooke Sanders and Lucas Griffin are peer health educators of the USC Office for Wellness and Health Promotion.

This post was originally posted in the Daily Trojan.