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What is #PTSD and how does it differ from racial stress and trauma?
2. PTSD is a mental *disorder* (remember this) that is caused by experiencing a traumatic event. Our diagnostic manual is very specific about what types of events are considered traumatic...
3. I won’t go through an exhaustive list, but basically traumatic events are considered ones in which your life is threatened or you experience sexual violence, witness something like this happen to someone else, or hear about this happening to someone *close to you*...
4. A traumatic event can also be exposure to details of any of these kinds of events *as a part of your job*...
5. PTSD is characterized by 4 clusters of symptoms: reexperiencing (nightmares, flashbacks), avoidance (avoiding trauma-related thoughts), negative thoughts or feelings about yourself, others or the world, greater reactivity (exaggerated startle, hypervigilance, risky behavior)
6. More details on PTSD symptoms here:…
7. Racial stress and trauma is not in the diagnostic manual. People definitely can experience PTSD after experiencing a racist event - but that event has to include actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence.
8. So many experiences that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) have do not fall into the types of traumas that would garner a PTSD diagnosis.
9. For example, being regularly exposed to social media of the murder of Black people is not considered a trauma for the average person, unless it’s part of your job (ex, journalists).
10. Please comment with other examples of experiences that negatively impact the mental health of BIPOC but would not be considered trauma.
11. Some scholars want to broaden the criteria of PTSD to include chronic stressors caused by oppression. However, there are problems with this approach...
12. Mental *disorders* are considered pathology. PTSD assumes that your symptoms are maladaptive, meaning they are basically an exaggeration to your current life circumstances. You feel in danger, when in reality you are safe.
13. Our reactions to racism are NOT A PATHOLOGY. They are adaptive reactions that keep us safe.
14. Hear a police siren and your heart rate speeds up?...NOT pathological. You get on high alert to prepare in case you have to deal with police, which can indeed become a life threatening experience.
15. High levels of vigilance and lack of trust in a predominantly-white area at night?...NOT pathological. We have seen what can happen to Black people in these situations. Vigilance and mistrust are adaptive.
16. We don’t want to go to therapy to get rid of these adaptive reactions. They are protective in a society that does not value our lives.
17. So how can we as Psychologists and mental health providers help?
18. First of all, SUPPORT AND VALIDATE. BIPOC are used to having their experiences of racism questioned or outright denied. Communicating that you believe that what someone experienced IS racism sets the stage for actual healing. Healing is impossible without validation.
19. Psychology has very much moved away from supportive therapy and towards evidence-based treatment. EBT is great and necessary for *mental disprders*. But for racial stress and trauma, support is absolutely necessary.
20. Community is crucial. Group therapy is a wonderful modality for supporting people experiencing racism. Therapists of Color are CRUCIAL.
22. And we need all graduate programs to train their students to adopt a social justice orientation to working with patients. ALL of them. We cannot help marginalized people without understanding the systems that oppress them and how this impacts health.
23. I hope you all comment on this with your own thoughts. I want this to be a discussion because these are complex issues. #BlackMentalHealth
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