Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The trauma of racism.

Our lives, our circumstances, our environment and the people around us play a huge role in our mental health, the way we access support (if we can even access support) and how we are able to live our lives while suffering. Gender, sexuality, race, culture, ability, our bodies, these things dictate the way we're perceived and interpolated.

Racism is alive and well all over the world. Lately though, the spotlight has been focused on America, where there has been daily reporting on police violence against black Americans. There has been increasing access to footage of people being murdered by police. Openly. Body cams. Passers by. "Black Lives Matter" is a hash-tag because it's something that needs to be repeated over and over. It is very clear in the way these deaths and murders are being represented in the media that the lives of black men are not valued the same way as the lives of their white counterparts. When you watch footage of kids at a pool party being tackled, and hear the aggressive, hostile language of cops towards black children it is painful and infuriating to any empathetic fucking human.

According to recent changes in the DSM, Racism Can Cause PTSD Similar To That Of Soldiers After War, the change to the DSM includes language that is more open to interpretation of what constitutes the traumas of racism. 

According to the change racism was recognized... 
... as a trauma that could potentially cause PTSD, but only in relation to a specific event. There had to be an incident of intense fear, helplessness, or horror for such consideration. For instance, if someone was assaulted in a racially-motivated event, then racism qualified as a sufficient trauma to be categorized as a cause of PTSD. 
But now, under the new definition, the requirements for fear, helplessness, and horror have been removed, making room for the more lasting effects of subtle racism to be considered in the discussion of race-based traumas.
This is a huge shift. It actually takes into account how microagression and negative stimuli can create and sustain a hostile environment. Of course feeling afraid for your life on a daily basis would alter your emotional health. It's tantamount to living in a war zone. That's where the term "racial battle fatigue" comes from:
...exposure to racial discrimination is analogous to the constant pressure soldiers face on the battlefield.
The article quotes Dr. Jose Soto from the psychology department of the University of California, Berkeley adding:
While the term [racial battle fatigue] is certainly not trying to say that the conditions are exactly what soldiers face on a battlefield, it borrows from the idea that stress is created in chronically unsafe or hostile environments.
All of this makes me think of an Audrey Lorde quote:

As I'm trying to stay as informed as I can bear (since this is all terribly sad). I realize that's my ability to not experience racism first-hand is privilege

I recommend checking out Why Spotlight Minority Mental Health? by Afrika Foreman.

I also follow Black Girls + Mental Health, which links to articles you might find useful.

If you know of any good resources, please link to them below.

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