Racism, Stress, Trauma & Resilience in Black Communities

black child holding toy airplane

Throughout history Black Americans have faced a number of factors that put them at risk for mental health problems, and intergenerational trauma continues to leave mental scars on Black communities. Repeated experiences of racism, both covert (concealed or subtle racism such as microaggressions) and overt (intentional or obvious forms of racism such as hate crimes), may cause chronic stress, forms of trauma, and other mental and physical health problems1,2. Today, cases of police brutality and racial profiling demonstrate continued explicit and implicit biases against Black Americans. Viral clips and news segments highlighting cases of police brutality against black individuals may serve as a source of secondary traumatic stress for other Black Americans engaging in this media. One study found that a majority of college students of color show symptoms of PTSD after watching social media videos of unarmed Black men killed by police. Taking breaks from forms of media and practicing self-care may help. Calculate, locate, and communicate is a framework providers can walk through with patients experiencing a racially stressful moment. See below for more resources:

  • Click HERE to learn more about mental health risk factors, forms of trauma, and suggested assessment and treatment recommendations for Black Americans.
  • Click HERE to learn more about police killings in media and Black mental health
  • Click HERE for the Association of Black Psychologist’s Family-Care, Community-Care, and Self-Care Toolkit: Healing in the Face of Cultural Trauma, featuring self-care guides and breathwork activities.

Resilience in Black Communities

According to the American Psychology Association, resilience is defined as “... the process of adapting well to in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” Not only does resilience help you get through difficult circumstances, it also promotes strength and growth, improving life along the way. This strategy is also a protective factor that can reduce health risk behaviors and protect from various mental health conditions. Some recommendations to promote resilience include promoting cultural pride, teaching heritage and history, and support. This support includes tangible aid, emotional support, advice, and information. Review the following resources below to learn more and to share with your community. 


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