Hello, my name is Shontel Cargill and I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Thriveworks located at the Cumming office in Georgia. The question that was asked was, “What is racial trauma?”
Racial trauma also known as race-based traumatic stress is defined as the cumulative negative effects of racism and discrimination on the mental and physical health of people of color. Events that may cause racial trauma includes one or innumerable experiences of racism and discrimination that may be in the form of microaggressions, threat of harm or injury due to race, hate crimes, witnessing killings of people, of color police brutality and other traumatic events.
Symptoms that may be experienced by people of color, who have been impacted by racial trauma include depression, anxiety, fear, anger, low self-esteem, irritability, even hypervigilance, and suspicion. These symptoms mirror those of posttraumatic stress syndrome with the root cause being repeated exposure to racism and elimination. Racial trauma can also have a negative impact on one’s physical health, including symptoms of hypertension and coronary heart disease.
Those who have repeatedly been exposed to racial discrimination and injustices are more susceptible to experiencing even more severe mental and physical health symptoms. Severity may be determined by the result of progressive effects of racism associated with personal, collective, and historical racial trauma.
Due to being exposed, to repeat it, acts of racism, discrimination, injustices, and other very traumatic acts, healing can be a process. Some ways that you can cope with racial trauma include participating in self-care activities, such as meditation, mindfulness, prayer journaling. All of these tools are very helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Having conversation with friends and family about racism and discrimination; communal support is very important in the healing process.
Also, decreasing the amount of time you were exposed to social media and news cycles that display repeated traumatic stories involving racial injustices. Remember to give yourself grace during these very tough and unprecedented times and give yourself permission to rest when you need to. And finally seek a clinician of color and one who has experience with trauma-informed care.
I really hope that this information has been helpful in identifying what racial trauma is and how it impacts communities of color. If you ever need assistance in navigating the process of healing from racial trauma, please do not hesitate to contact Thriveworks. Thank you so so much for listening today and please be well.