In the wake of George Floyd’s senseless death, the nation is experiencing deep sorrow and outrage. Some will never experience firsthand the struggles, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) associated with recent events or with being Black, but are trying their best to learn and contribute to change.
We spoke with healthcare professionals from communities of color to hear their take on recent events and words on self-care during this time. From our conversations and research, we’ve compiled a list of resources for those who feel their mental health is being compromised.
Dr. Jameca Woody Cooper is a clinical psychologist in Missouri and has been practicing for about 15 years. She specializes in geriatric and urban mental health and is a faculty member of Webster University. Dr. Nekeshia Hammond has been a licensed psychologist in Florida for 11 years and serves as the Public Education Chair for the Florida Psychological Association. She works to reduce the stigma of mental health treatment, particularly in the Black and Brown communities.
In regards to the pain, possible trauma, and PTSD associated with recent events, Dr. Jameca shares that the Black community has always lived with a certain set of rules and expectations, which may feel constantly like PTSD. “The rest of the country is now starting to feel what we feel on a daily basis because of its prominence in the media. The Black community has experience with the things many people are just seeing—for us, it’s just more of the same.”
Dr. Hammond believes that there could be a lot of trauma from recent events. “To see so much graphic violence and buildings being burned, it can be a lot to take in, especially when those people look like you.”
“There’s nowhere you can go and nothing you can do to forget racism. The Black community will receive less in the world because of its policies and actions. My 17-year-old son, for example, will have less because of racism.” said Dr. Jameca.
To cope with emotional fallouts, both psychologists recommend practicing self-awareness and self-care. It starts with having a safe place to process and being around people who understand these issues. It also includes taking a step back from the news, making time for physical activity and sun, and sleeping to keep the stress and frustrations levels low. When your mood starts to affect how you function socially or emotionally week after week, that's when it becomes more of a mental health concern.
Dr. Jameca’s personal mental health philosophy has been to recognize the difference between things she can change and the things she cannot change. “I have perfected the art of identifying what I can impact with my worry. I cut myself psychologically off from the things I have no control over. For the things I have control over, I figure out how I can get involved and what’s realistic.”
Overall, both psychologists have been balancing their personal hurt while supporting others through their pain. “I feel disappointed in the systemic racism that has brought us here, but at the same time, I feel hopeful when I look at the responses of various people in different positions all over the country—when I see not just young people or Black and Brown people, but all people of various ages and social classes expressing their outrage,” said Dr. Jameca.
“I’m happy that there’s awareness. All 50 states have protested about George Floyd. And it brings my heart joy to see it becoming global. Racism is not just in America. Everyone is getting involved and protesting,” says Dr. Hammond.
Due to social circumstances, many Black adults and youth are more likely to be exposed to economic distress and racism among other events that increase their chance of developing mental illnesses. Unfortunately, they also face more barriers to care like stigma, distrust of the healthcare system, lack of insurance or underinsurance, and lack of diverse, culturally competent providers.
Thank you to the healthcare professionals who shared their thoughts and resources.