BLACK TRAUMA: MADE IN AMERICA
I have witnessed on social media and television the police brutalities and colorblindness our nation has experienced recently that has heighten my awareness of the Unites States' poor psychological wellness in individuals and groups, such as, the law enforcement and Black community, like the Black communities of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and my own backyard in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I want to focus more on Black families who are exposed to frequent community violence such as police brutality. Beckett (2014) mentioned how "...mental health/medical professionals are now beginning to trace effects of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder on neighborhoods that are already struggling with unemployment, poverty, and the devastating impact of the war on drugs (Black America's Invisible Crisis, Beckett, 2014). Unfortunately, the Black community have an unhealthy relationship with law enforcement. This type of intervention and prevention could help improve the relationship with law enforcement and the psychological well-being of the Black communities. The benefits of post-traumatic stress disorder counseling could help Black low socioeconomic status to have financial stability (steady employment), low crime rate (healthy coping mechanisms), lower school dropout rate (teaching children healthy coping skills, building healthy relationships, and to see warning signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). In Black America's Invisible Crisis, Beckett states how post-traumatic stress disorder affects different age groups and gender differences (Beckett, 2014). Uneducated individuals will categorize or stereotype certain groups to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, such as war veterans, battered women, etc. The burden of post-traumatic stress of low-income communities of color gets very little attention (Beckett, 2014). Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D. stated, "... all the gun violence, we have a lot of traumatized people, and it's not just the people who are being shot and shot at, it's the people who are witnessing it, the vicarious trauma (Beckett, 2014)." This type of initiative will educate where our services are needed but also heighten our awareness on being culturally competent on our approach and assessment on this population.
Many people do not realize police brutality goes beyond physical. Psychological trauma faced by victim(s) manifested itself in many ways, such as stress, anxiety, fear, paranoia, distrust, insomnia, anorexia, and depression (Brewer et. al, 1999). Such psychological symptoms can further be manifested as Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Brewer et. al, 1999). Police brutality must be recognized, investigated, and acted upon as a serious health concern because of its obvious deleterious effects on individuals, their families and communities (Carlier et. al, 1997). These findings have enlightened me on the animosity some African American communities especially in impoverish communities feel towards law enforcement. The perception African American male may view law enforcement as a threat and not as help.
Through the social media, racial minorities are being scrutinized, brutalized and even killed by law enforcement in the United States (Carlier et. al, 1996). Police brutality is defined as: (1) bias against minorities, (2) an attack against individual and community civil rights and (3) a serious public health problem (Carlier et. al, 1996). When it comes to law enforcement using bias against minorities while working is one of the most discussed events when it came to recent events such as, Terence Crutcher's headline. Some people will say society is colorblind but that does not improve society colorblindness is rather seen as ignorant and not acknowledging cultural differences. It is important for professionals who interact with people must be aware of cultural differences and stereotypes. As we educate ourselves about multicultural issues and close to becoming culturally competent; we will interact with people better. It is extremely important for helping professionals including law enforcement to know their limit and bias before helping others. This approach will make professionals aware when our perception/biases are influencing our job performance. Police brutality is not only racist, discriminatory, and unjust, but continues to create a cycle of inappropriate relations between minority communities and law enforcement (Carlier et. al, 1997). Our goal is to alleviate and minimize community violence and police brutality (Carlier et. al, 1997).
As practitioners, suggested objectives for the Black community to cope with trauma are:
- To educate mental health counselors, advocates, and consultants about other untreated high risk PTSD populations that have been overlooked.
- To educate counselors in the school system on the warning signs of PTSD in children residing in high violence and impoverish communities.
- To develop and implement a close support-therapy group in the Black community for those who have experienced violence (gun, gang, or police brutality).
- To educate the audience on ways to partner law enforcement and faith based organization implementing intervention and de-escalating techniques (conflict resolution) in the Black community
- To educate the practitioners on ways to refer and make crisis intervention services available to violence (gun, gang, or police brutality) victims that witnessed the traumatic event or were one of the victims in the traumatic event (Primary Prevention, Secondary Prevention, and Tertiary Prevention).
Brewin, C.R., Andrews, B., Rose, S. & Kirk, M. (1999). Acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of violent crime. Journal of psychiatry, 156, 360-6.
Carlier, I.V., Lamberts, R.D., & Gersons, B.P. (1996). PTSD in relation to dissociation in traumatized police officers. American journal of psychiatry, 153, 1325-8.
Calier, I.V., Lamberts, R.D. & Gersons, B.P. (1997). Risk factors for post-traumatic stress symptomology in police officers: a prospective analysis. Journal of psychiatry, 185, 498-506.