Gun Violence Survivor’s Mental Health Recovery: Jaleel King’s Story
“People don’t realize how much it affects everything around the person who has been damaged,” says Jaleel King, photographer, educator, speaker and gun violence survivor.
Jaleel’s life story demonstrates the devastating and destructive ripple effect of a single bullet, which not only damaged his spine and deprived him of the ability to walk at age eight, but also had a tremendous effect on the lives of the people in his family—not to mention the impact it had on his offender.
OC87 Recovery Diaries is proud to present our interview with Jaleel King as the second in our four-part series “Beyond the Bullet: Gunshot Violence Survivors Speak.” The series presents members of the Gun Violence Survivors’ Support Group, based in Philadelphia, who tell of their journeys of pain and healing, isolation and community, and, most beautifully, stories of recovery, love and support. Jaleel is one of the group’s founding members.
As a young person in a wheelchair, Jaleel experienced teasing from other kids, and contemplated ending his life. In our interview, he reflects thoughtfully about his efforts to keep a positive attitude. “Pick a thing that you can make with lemons, you know what I mean? I’m always making something with my lemons, and because I’m always handed them. And I make the best decisions that I have to make in order to survive out here, because it’s difficult.”
Gun Violence Survivor Support Group
Jaleel was shot at a very young age, and has been in a wheelchair longer than many other group members. As a result, he has wrestled longer with the impact that the trauma he experienced has had on his life. His experience has given him tremendous wisdom. “We may all be in wheelchairs, but we all have different scars,” he shared at a recent gun violence survivor support group meeting—an astute observation that each human in the group is an individual, and that every person’s path to emotional recovery and mental health is his or her own.
Jaleel finds the support group key to his mental health. “You have to be around people who can get you sometimes. It’s difficult to break down your own walls and be vulnerable, and let yourself go and say, ‘These are the things that I’m dealing with,’ and admitting that you have a weakness. But your weakness is also your strength, and you’re still persevering, you’re still pushing through everything that you have been thrown at.”
After watching his interview, check out Jaleel’s beautiful photography on his website, jaleelking.com. In the ABOUT link on his website, Jaleel writes “Photography has not only taken me to the other side of the world but also has connected me to so many amazing people who are a part of it. I have been a wheelchair user since age 8. While minor considerations may be required, it is not a barrier to success. It often provides a fresh outlook and helps me make meaningful connections with people.”
I hope you enjoy listening to and learning from Jaleel (aka “King”) as much as I have. All of the voices in this series deserve our attention. Their lives are the window into the very human suffering that gun violence has on our society. Yet their stories are filled with a strength and resilience that is awe-inspiring.