Mental Health and Gunshot Violence: Charles Horton's Story

Mental Health and Gunshot Violence: Charles Horton’s Story


For over a year now, a group of remarkable men and women have gathered in Philadelphia to discuss mental health and gunshot violence — first live, now virtually. They come from different parts of the city. They are of different ages and have different talents and skills. They have different living situations. They do have a few things in common, however. They are all in wheelchairs. And they are all have experienced trauma. They are members of the Gun Violence Survivors’ Support Group, a fellowship of victims of Philadelphia’s gun violence.

Some have been paralyzed for years; others, just months. They gather to collectively heal, support and uplift each other. Headlines may convey death tolls from gun violence. But what they don’t chronicle are the formidable challenges of being a survivor.

OC87 Recovery Diaries is proud to present the first in our series “Beyond the Bullet: Gunshot Violence Survivors Speak.” The series presents members of the Gun Violence Survivors’ Support Group telling of their journeys of pain and healing, isolation and community, and, most beautifully, stories of recovery, love and support.

I am so pleased to introduce you to Charles Horton, a founding member of the group. Charles was injured at 17 years of age, and has been a disability activist for most of his life. He is a thoughtful human. Charles uses his experience to speak about the journey a newly disabled person must take when first injured—how one must “introduce” his old self to his new “disability-self,” and then move through the stages of acceptance. But it’s not easy.

Mental Health and Gunshot Violence Recovery

Like many survivors of violence, Charles has s lived with mental health challenges—especially depression—for years. For him, the Gun Violence Survivors’ Support Group has been a bright light in his life, a new kind of family and a place where he can truly connect with people who understand what he might be going through at any time.

“This group has really given me a place where I can be me and I’m protected, and I have brothers and sisters and we are a family. Let’s get one thing straight. This group has really developed into a family that I can call somebody at any time, and just be like, “I’m going through something.” After 30 years I still go through it. You might get somebody two years in, that drops some jewels on you of wisdom, just something, and it just clicks for you, and make you feel better. So, our family has really touched me and has made me a better person, and I need them.”

I hope you enjoy listening to and learning from Charles (aka “Chuck”) as much as I have. All of the voices in this series about mental health and gunshot violence 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.

mental health and gunshot violence

EDITOR IN CHIEF: Gabriel Nathan | EDITOR: Glenn Holsten | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PHOTOGRAPHY: Jaleel King | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

Glenn is an award-winning director who loves to create compelling documentary story experiences of all lengths for screens of all sizes. He is an avid reader, studied literature in college, and his passion for stories with strong characters and interesting narratives stems from those years. His career as a visual storyteller began at WHYY (the public television station in Philadelphia) where he worked for 15 years before becoming an independent filmmaker. In addition to his PBS documentaries about arts and culture, he has directed films about justice and human rights, and now, mental health. He was emboldened to undertake his current documentary project, Hollywood Beauty Salon, a colorful feature-length documentary about surviving mental illness and finding the courage for recovery, after his transformative experience directing OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, along with Bud Clayman and Scott Johnston.