Racial Trauma and how to deal with it

Racism is a very serious social issue. It is mostly discussed as a collective phenomenon, but the fact of the matter is that racism leads to a host of individual mental issues such as chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and racial trauma. It is a rather subtle phenomenon. The act of racism can manifest in usually fall into one of the two major categories: Micro-level racism and systemic racism. Micro-level racism comprises of various acts one may experience personally. The acts may range from subtle disrespectful jokes on one’s ethnical or religious backgrounds to serious physical or verbal confrontations. Macro-level racism is a phenomenon experienced through laws, regulations, or policies against particular race, ethnicity, or religion. It may manifest in institutional discrimination.

Both kinds of racism can be devastating for an individual. They can deplete your self-confidence and even make you hate your identity. Racism can lead serious emotional scars and may lead an individuals to emotional effects, such as: recurrent suicidal thoughts, bouts of anxiety, feeling of worthlessness, lower self-esteem, hopelessness, distress, anger, exhaustion, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Whether you go through everyday episodes of discrimination or hear constant news about violence against people of certain ethnic or religious background, the psychological effects of racism can lead to racial trauma.

The effects of racial trauma may vary from person to person. Sometimes, the symptoms are identical to PTSD. It may cause the victim’s head playing the distressing events in a constant loop. The symptoms of racial trauma include: chronic stress, peaked alertness and evasion of imagined threats, disturbed sleeping patterns, overly aggressive behavior, low self-esteem, substance abuse, a feeling of being disconnected, lower interaction with others, and a marked hesitance in meeting new opportunities’ or risk-taking.

More than 60% of black American believe that they have at least one experience of racial discrimination in their lifetime. According to a study,black adults are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than white adults.

Research found out that native and indigenous American adults have the highest rate of mental illness among any other single race identifying group. A person of color is significantly more likely to be exposed to negative socioeconomic factors such as poverty, abuse, or incarceration. The study conducted at the University of California found that facing discrimination as a young adult makes you more likely to develop short and long-termed behavioral problems. The research took a sizeable data of more than 1800 Americans aged between 18 and 28 who claimed race to be a common indicator of discrimination. The study also revealed that individuals who encountered regular instance of discrimination (a few times in a month or more) increased the risk of being diagnosed with a mental illness by 25%. They were twice as likely to develop severe psychological stress.

Racism cannot vanish overnight and that is why stress related to events associated with discrimination will persist. One cannot entirely weed out the ill-effects of racism however there are ways you can heal yourself and try to move forward in life in the happiest possible manner.

If you are a victim of racial discrimination, try not to avoid others. Finding a community can help your cope and heal. The black communities have done that through ‘storytelling’ activities in the past. Talking about your experience helps you vent out the frustration. Find someone who can relate to your pain. Talking is healing. Fighting racism is important. It is a deep-rooted problem and being vocal against it can be helpful. Become a part of a community can help you amplify your voice. Organized groups should seek to change or make laws for the protection and empowerment of the victimized communities.

Practicing self-care is also important because it improves a person’s well-being. Self-care is a subjective matter and it can be anything that makes you feel loved by yourself. Taking a daily walk, indulging in your favorite activity, or even a nice massage can help you regain your healthy psychological state.

Staying updated is important but excessive media consumption can lead to stress. Limiting your media consumption can help improve your mental health. Remember that racial trauma isn’t always something that you can deal with alone. You may need therapy. Trauma-informed therapist can understand what you’ve gone through and advise you accordingly.

Racism effects your mental health but it can easily influence your physical health. It may lead to problems such as inflammation, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and even a weaker immune function.