Methods to Perceive and Deal with Racial Trauma

A year after the murder of George Floyd, many people continue to process the grief, pain, and horror of a life that lies before our eyes. For those in the BIPOC community, that grief and pain is compounded by the ongoing psychological effects of racial trauma.

Racism is linked to a wide variety of psychological consequences, including depression, anxiety, and other serious, sometimes debilitating, mental conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders, say mental health experts. Given the prevalence of racism, it is nearly impossible for black, indigenous and colored people (BIPOC) to avoid some level of racial trauma. (Source:

To better understand racial trauma we must first understand what it is. “The more we identify it and call it what it is, the easier it is for us to deal with it and manage it,” says April Preston, a psychotherapist in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Trauma refers to an emotional response to a disturbing event such as a natural disaster or a violent crime. Racial trauma is a response to an experience of racism, including violence or humiliation. You can also hear it called race-based trauma or race-based traumatic stress.

Know the symptoms

Racial trauma manifests itself in the same way as other forms of trauma. People who have racial trauma may experience hypervigilance, increased depressive symptoms, persistent anger and outbursts, recurring thoughts about the events, and physical reactions such as headaches, chest pains, and insomnia.

Physiologically, your body responds to racism as chronic stress, which in turn can lead to a variety of health problems, ”said Will Ming Liu, professor of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland. “For BIPOC individuals, this has been a lifelong experience of retraumatisation. It is always something that they have learned to deal with and that they have built up over time. “(Source:

Copy strategies

After realizing that racial trauma can affect your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, it is important to understand that there are many things you can do to manage and overcome some of the pain. Here are a few things you may find helpful:

Practice self-care. Prioritize eating nutritious foods and get some rest. Be gentle with yourself and check how you feel day in and day out. Depending on your stress and anxiety levels, you may need different types of foods or different amounts of sleep.

Spend time doing hobbies that you enjoy. Whether you’re reading a book, doing an art project, or taking a hike, you can find some activities to help you feel calm, relaxed, and rejuvenated.

Set limits on social media and news consumption. While we all want to be kept informed, the 24 hour message cycle can just be too long, especially if you repeatedly display violent or disturbing images. Schedule specific times of the day to read or watch the news, and then take part in the hobbies that you enjoy or people who will help you comfort you. Make sure to turn off notifications on your devices whenever you need a message break.

Discover opportunities for activism by connecting with others in your community. Connecting with people who have experiences similar to yours can be incredibly healing. Activism in your community can help positively influence the ongoing struggle for social justice.

I am looking for professional help

Racial trauma can affect your quality of life. Hence, finding professional support can be a key to your emotional and mental wellbeing. Here are some helpful resources to help you get started looking for professional psychological counseling (source:

Additional readings and resources:

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