Race Based Traumatic Stress

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Race Based Traumatic Stress

The national focus on racial discrimination has produced opportunities to discuss other harms of racism that do not receive much attention in the news. One of these is race-based traumatic stress, which is an injurious response to the stress experienced in relation to a discriminatory or racist event or interactions.

If you have been affected by race-based trauma, you may experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress: anxiety, nightmares, sleep difficulties, and relationship and communication problems with those you love. These types of traumas might lead to fear of social situations, trouble being relaxed in social situations, feeling worried others might notice your anxiety, feeling that the world is an unsafe place to be, avoiding activities that might find you at the centre of attention, and many other negative realities.

Even children may be particularly vulnerable to race-based traumatic stress from bullying peers and authority figures, or even from what they witness in the media or secondary to the race discrimination experienced by their parents or caregivers. Those affected by race-based traumatic stress may find it tougher to seek help for symptoms because they don’t believe professional counsellors or mental health clinicians will understand their worldview or experiences about racism. Fortunately, this concern is being overcome with new awareness, education, and increasing numbers of professional counsellors who identify as members of diverse communities.

If you think race-based traumatic stress is interfering with your ability to be happy, healthy, and productive, consider professional counselling or contacting your EAP.