By Andrea Alvarez

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Local advocacy groups are working to address teen suicide and gun violence issues across Tampa Bay as teen death rates continue to climb.

Founded over 15 years ago, Teen Tyme in Tampa Bay grew from an education empowerment initiative to a mission focused on “A to the third power”.

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“Awareness, action and acceleration. Isolation, the depression, the loneliness feeds the fear and aggression,” explained Founder of Teen Tyme, Stacey Spencer who speaks to teens nationwide about the rising number of deaths.

“Across the country, there is such a thrash of school violence. Well, gun violence has moved into position number one, then you have the vehicular car crashes still at number two and then suicide at number three,” said Spencer. One reason, she says, is communication. “Technology over the last 15, 20 years, the last 10, the last seven minutes has been ever evolving.”

Black children and teens in Florida are three times as likely to die by guns than their white peers. In 2019, 187 children and teens fell victim to gun violence in Florida. Spencer says it’s only gotten worse as the pandemic took hold.

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“Stressors, isolation, the time spent with this pandemic has caused a lot of young people to feel like their value and their self-worth has dropped down to zero,” she said. “Some of those emotions that were bottled up during the pandemic shut down are now coming out kind of like a delayed reaction.”

A study found that 67% percent of teen deaths caused by guns each year in Florida are homicides. But fixing the issue means taking accountability and action.

“You know, whether it’s clergy, law enforcement, guardian, law makers, family. We have to become that village again and take ownership of where we have dropped the ball,” she said.

To learn more or get involved with Teen Tyme Productions, click here.

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To request a booking with keynote speaker Stacey Spencer, visit her website. Each seminar is custom designed for the population they serve across the country.