A thorough and desperately needed discussion about systemic racism in America is finally taking place in the media, in our workplaces, and in our public and private conversations.
These discussions often focus on the social and economic impacts that racist policies and conscious and unconscious racial biases have on black society. What they rarely address are the devastating mental health effects that racism can have on people of color.
Dr. La’Tesha, who is the President and Founder of Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services, says that racism can manifest in numerous symptoms that are often associated with post traumatic stress disorder.
Those symptoms can include depression, anger, sleep disorders (which can result from a heightened sense of danger), loss of appetite, and apathy. These and other symptoms don’t only manifest from personal racial attacks either. They can also develop from witnessing racism through third party sources like the media, making their prevalence particularly widespread.
That could at least partially explain the greater PTSD rates observed among minority groups in America. According to the National Survey of American Life, 9.1% of African Americans have PTSD compared to 6.8% of non-Hispanic white Americans. Elevated rates of PTSD were also observed in other minority groups, including Hispanic Americans and Native Americans.
How much of the disparity is caused by racism against minority groups isn’t known however, as other factors are likely contributing to the increased rates of PTSD, including a greater prevalence of violence in minority communities.
How People of Color Can Manage Racism
Dr. La’Tesha, who is also the CEO of Erase the Divide, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that aims to help bridge the digital divide in minority communities, says people of color need to carefully consume media given the risks associated with being exposed to acts of racism.
That’s especially true now given the robust discussion of racism that is taking place, revealing many of the harms that people of color regularly endure. While being informed is important, your mental health is even more important.
In her interview with Thrive Global, Dr. La’Tesha recommended limiting time spent on social media and consuming news, and to stick to reputable news sources. She also encouraged readers to develop a daily routine to help keep them grounded amid these unprecedented times.
Dr. La’Tesha, who has overcome the damaging effects of racism in her own life to become a highly respected and successful entrepreneur, therapist, and philanthropist, says several reliable psychotherapy treatment methods exist for dealing with PTSD and other associated conditions that can be caused by racism.
These include PTSD therapy, which helps patients reframe past traumas and thought processes and restore their self-esteem. Another effective treatment that falls under the cognitive behavioral therapy umbrella is Stress Inoculation Training, which teaches techniques to overcome negative thoughts and reduce anxiety.
Racism is a sad reality that people of color in America live with and it can take a devastating toll on them. And while instances of racism need to be called out, that doesn’t mean reactions to it need to be overly emotional and stressful.
Dr. La’Tesha recommends people of color adopt more of a stoic’s approach in their reactions, putting racism in its proper context as a completely ignorant and unjustified attack, no different than any other absurd comment that isn’t worth having an emotional and potentially damaging reaction to.
Taking racism to heart and having an emotional response to it is precisely what the racist wants after all. By managing their reactions, people of color can destroy any power that racism could ever hold over them and live a happier, healthier and more confident life.
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