We are living in a racism pandemic, which is taking a heavy psychological, mental health and psychical health toll on our Black and Brown communities. The health consequences are devasting. Racism is associated with a host of psychological consequences, including depression, anxiety and other serious, sometimes debilitating conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. Moreover, the stress caused by racism can contribute to the development of stress cardiomyopathy, weakened immune systems, and attributes to over 80% of lifestyle-related physical diseases.
Racial trauma, or race-based traumatic stress (RBTS), refers to the mental and emotional injury initiated by combats with racial bias and ethnic intolerance, racism, and hate crimes. Historical hardship, which incorporates a lack of health, educational, social, and economic resources, translates into socioeconomic disparities experienced by Black and Brown American people today. Socioeconomic status, in turn, is linked to mental health: Black and Brown people who are underprivileged, homeless, incarcerated, or experiencing addictions are at higher risk for poor mental health.
However, despite the overrepresentation of Black and Brown people in the justice system, there is evidence of resilience. While the health of Black and Brown people has been largely described in terms of deficits, disease, and death, there has been less attention given to the fact that Black and Brown people have sustained the ability to survive a history of social, economic, and environmental adversities. These injustices must be addressed because they continue to take a disturbing toll. However, there is also research suggesting the existence of substantial individual and shared resilience among Black and Brown people.
The resiliency of these groups is not attributed to effective systemic changes or adequate representation. An example of the under-representation is that less than 2% of American Psychological Association members are Black. Furthermore, less than 30% of counseling has presented strong outcomes for Black and Brown people partly because a wide range of mental health care practitioners are not culturally responsive enough to treat the specific issues of Black and Brown people.
Dr. Masica Jordan-Alston, a licensed counselor and Assistant Professor at Bowie State University, the oldest HBCU in Maryland, has been teaching multicultural counseling for over a decade and cited that one of the many factors contributing to the growth of resiliency in Black and Brown communities is organic peer support. Peer support encompasses a range of activities and interactions between people who share similar experiences of being diagnosed with mental health conditions, substance use disorders, or both. Over the last decade, this historical approach, rooted in Black and Brown communities, has grown into a solid workforce across the U.S. Dr. Mark A. Bolden, Assistant Professor of Mental Health at Bowie State University stated, Black resilience is based on historical memory. African Americans survive, cope, and thrive by remembering the struggles of those who came before us and fortifying ourselves in our religious traditions to transcend and ascend through and above the material conditions through our spiritual foundations.