PTSD in the Black Community
June 8, 2020 by Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh black people and mental health, PTSD in the Black Community 0 comments
Recent events have some people scared. This makes sense. People are clamoring for change, and tensions are high. Not to mention, the nation is still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that has left millions unemployed and our economy teetering on the edge of a cliff. All of these disasters and injustices have disproportionately affected minorities. Some people will be traumatized by the happenings of today. So in light of that fact, I decided to examine Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as it relates to the black community.
Let’s start by describing this mental health disorder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD as defined by the American Psychological Association is a mental illness and specifically an anxiety disorder where an individual struggles with recovery from witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event. Unlike the commonly held belief, PTSD is not limited to wartime veterans, and it can manifest due to several different ordeals such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, or even natural disasters. The disorder can last several months to several years, when a person sees, hears, or remembers something that they relate to that event, they are ‘triggered,’ this can happen often and be debilitating for a person who holds or qualifies for the diagnosis of PTSD as triggers can come up often within everyday life leaving them struggling with a feeling that they are back in that traumatizing event. Remember, a trigger is a memories that evokes an extremely intense emotional and physical reaction.
Other symptoms of PTSD often include nightmares and unwanted memories, flashbacks, heightened reactions to otherwise non -threatening stimuli, avoidance of triggering situations, PTSD can even lead to anxiety, depression, and make a person more vulnerable to developing substance abuse. Treatment for PTSD is available in the form of different types of trauma-focused therapy models. Some of these models might include the use of medication to relieve symptoms of PTSD as they allow individuals to work toward a better quality of life.
So how does this relate to the black community? It’s easy to see that the black experience in the United States is rife with traumatic events. From the desperation that arises through the effects of poverty, to the overt systematic racism that permeates our justice system. Minorities are repeatedly traumatized by the witnessing of the murders of innocent men and women. Trauma is experienced when we read about the number of black men in the prison system (many for nonviolent offences). We become anxious every time we see a video of a woman threatening to call the police on citizens minding their own business. But the worst part about it, is that we have been exposed to it over, and over, and over again, allowing the traumatic cycle to continue.
As a member of the black community, I want to emphasize that this trauma is real, and that it’s impact has lasting consequences. If this resonates with you, you’re not alone, and this does not mean you’re weak. This is the result of our community collectively experiencing PTSD. As mentioned earlier, there are resources to help individuals make sense of it all. I want to encourage you to take the steps necessary to take care of yourself, even as we all work to make these sources of trauma a thing of the past. Reach out to your local therapist at Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, as well as to your support groups. Be aware of your triggers and learn positive ways to cope with them. Remember, your voice is your ally, do not stop talking about this!