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Liz Walker's 'Can We Talk' Program Helping Trauma Survivors Share Stories Of Pain, Loss And Healing

BOSTON (CBS) - Too often It's something we don't talk about - our own mental health, our troubles, our pain. There is a community group trying to change that, getting people to open up and to heal together with their neighbors.

It's called "Can We Talk" and it was started by a member of our WBZ-TV family, Rev. Liz Walker. And it's making a difference.

"When you walk around this city, you can feel the trauma in the air, I mean, the hopelessness," Debra Johnson told WBZ-TV.

Johnson speaks from experience having gone through trauma, which led to a place of complete darkness. Her son, 27-year-old Cory Johnson, was gunned down back in 2010. The shooter was never caught and the case was never solved.

cory johnson
Cory Johnson. (Photo credit: Debra Johnson)

"To lose him that has put such a hole in my family structure," she said, "because trauma disconnects you from everything."

But through the death of her son, and so many others like Johnson, "Can We Talk" was born. It's founder, Rev. Dr. Liz Walker, created the program in 2014. It allows people to share their stories of pain, grief, loss and healing.

"We just give them the space to evolve themselves, their problems or their issues or their concerns and then once they start to talk about it, they can start seeing it and work through it themselves, with support, with help," said Shondell Davis, a member of the program.

"It works because it is a community program," Walker said. "There's no hierarchy. I don't have all the answers. We're all wounded right now and we're trying to find ways to mend broken hearts and coming together we can help each other."

The program is open forums, but it also provides private support free of charge. They've partnered with both Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital.

can we talk
The "Can We Talk" program was created in 2014. (WBZ-TV)

Davis joined the program as Community Trauma Healing Specialist. Her son Johnny Davis was shot and killed in April 2009.

"You can see where we all started and where we are now and we can seriously look back now and smile and say we made it," Davis told WBZ.

This week they launch Liz Walker Legacy Fund, a campaign to help bring more awareness to those suffering from trauma and raise money for "Can We Talk".

"Can We Talk" deals with all types of trauma. It's community-focused but impacts families directly. On any given week they can have up to as many as 80 people in one session, all sharing their stories to begin the healing process.

"I walk into trauma to heal my trauma," Debra Johnson said.

For her, the program is her son's lasting legacy.

"It's healing," she said. "I hope the entire community comes and sees that there's hope."

Even in the midst of trauma.

"Can We Talk" is now helping people in seven Massachusetts communities. The Liz Walker Legacy Fund is more than halfway to its $2 million fundraising goal to expand the program.

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