Coping With Racial Trauma
At CPS we want to support all students, staff, and faculty who may be struggling due to recent and ongoing events in our country. The ongoing stress of the covid-19 virus, coupled with the racial violence and eruptions of protests throughout the country, have likely triggered a wide range of feelings and reactions. We recognize that our student and staff population is diverse, holding multiple perspectives shaped by varied identities and life circumstances and thus know that no one resource with help alleviate what you may be experiencing. Below are some reactions to racial violence as well as suggestions for self-care.
Reactions to Racial Violence
A cluster of feelings and behaviors that are associated with the experience of trauma. Often a traumatic event in the present can trigger experiences from our past. Common reactions include:
- Ruminating on the event (of the present and/or the past)
- Experiencing intrusive thoughts and/or images, such as flashbacks
- Disrupted sleep, including nightmares
- Being hypervigilant or feeling on edge
- Wanting to isolate from others
- Difficulty concentrating
In vicarious/secondary trauma, an individual can develop many of the trauma symptoms listed above even if they did not directly experience the traumatic event. Such reactions can occur from repeated exposure to images/stories on the media, or witnessing another person experience a traumatic/frightening event.
Racial Battle Fatigue
Experienced by people of color as a result of institutional racism. Being subject to persistent and pervasive microaggressions and can lead to physical and mental health problems.
Other common feelings/behaviors
Grief, anger/rage, frustration, sadness, guilt, shame, feeling numb, racing thoughts, despair, appetite changes, substance use.
How to Cope
- Take breaks from the news and social media—repeatedly seeing images of racial violence can continue to be retriggering
- Connect with people you trust - family, friends, faith community—if able, share your thoughts and feelingsso that you don’t feel too alone
- Empathize—regardless of your personal beliefs or experiences, you can still empathize
with the pain of others. Let go of a need to be “right,” and simply listen to others’
feelings and experiences with empathy and compassion.
- Remember that we all have multiple identities, some of which hold power/privilege, others of which may experience oppression/discrimination. Those with identities within the dominant culture may experience guilt, confusion, anger, or defensiveness. Seek to understand and respond with compassion, as well as seek out diverse perspectives and opportunities for learning more. Try not to rely on people of minority groups to do this for you.
- You may have conflicting views, agreeing or disagreeing with multiple viewpoints. Allow some acceptance for this dilemma, and continue learning and discussing with those you are comfortable with.
- Seek mental health support—Counseling and Psychological Services is open and provides free counseling to students. Please call us at (406) 994-4531. For more information go to: montana.edu/counseling
- Engage in Mindfulness and relaxation skills
- Download the self-help app Welltrack (montana.welltrack.com)
- Go to https://www.montana.edu/counseling/selfhelp/selfhelp/mindfulness.html for beginning mindfulness skills
- Educate yourself about issues of race and inequality