by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 8, 2020 black people and mental health, PTSD in the Black Community0 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!Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 3, 2020 black therapist pittsburgh, microagressions, racism in america, systemic racism, therapy for racism pittsburgh0 comments
Dealing with Microaggressions as a Black Man
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Sandra Bland…these are just a few of the names that come to mind as I write this. These are the names of victims of police brutality and racial injustice. These were unwilling martyrs who fell prey to overt, unabashed, and unadulterated racism. This is a problem, but there is another issue that plagues people of color every day. An unseen layer of racial inequality that exists under our noses: microaggressions.
What is a microaggression, you ask? A microaggression is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.” So when a stranger tells me that they don’t see color, or when someone raves that I am “surprisingly articulate” for a black man, they are using microaggressions, perhaps unknowingly. However minorities also use microaggressions. Phrases like “you sound white,” or being called an ‘oreo’ by peers (black on the outside, white on the inside) have been some of the microaggressions I have experienced from fellow people of color.
I can only speak from my personal experience, and I do not represent all people of color. However I know that when I encounter microaggressions, whether intentional or not, I find myself in a bind. Do I call it out, and risk being “that guy,” or do I brush it off, because at least it’s not as bad as what the victims above suffered? The events of the past week have shown me that silence in the face of microaggressions, only leads to further silence from possible allies when overt racism and racially motivated aggression takes place.
So what is the role of the black man or the person of color when facing microaggressions?
- Call it out for what it is. People may balk at this and respond with phrases such as “I’m not racist,” or “I have black friends,” but the truth remains, microaggressions are a result of racist history, and they are subtle ways of perpetuating negative stereotypes about black people and other minorities.
- Educate those within your circle. It surprises me that in the age of the internet, some people still are not aware of what may constitute a microaggression.
- Better yet, encourage those who are not sure to educate themselves. There are plenty of (free) resources out there for our friends and neighbors to learn and become better allies.
- Take care of yourself. One thing that has been made clear with all of the demonstrations lately, is that collectively, black people are tired. It is mentally and emotionally exhausting to navigate microaggressions, and process the overt racism that takes place in our country every day.
- Talk to someone. We cannot keep this stress bottled up. It helps to speak with a therapist or a trusted friend in order to process what we go through when we encounter microaggressions.
On a final note for everyone reading this, whether you experience microaggressions or not, do not stop talking about this. Talk to family, friends, neighbors, clergy, therapists. Talk, take action, and please take care of yourselves.Learn More