“Historical trauma” is collective trauma experienced by an entire group of people over many generations. For us, this trauma is related to major events that oppressed us such as slavery, Jim Crow, and institutional racism. But it’s more than that.
Its lasting effects means our young people are more likely to experience poor overall physical health. But it also has another major consequence - that we often don’t talk about.
Racism has huge impacts on our mental health, and our young people are especially vulnerable. The class of 2020, for example, is at a higher risk for low self-esteem, depression, self-destructive behavior, and higher rates of suicide. So what can we do?
In the short term, we can stop telling our young people to “just be strong.” All of our emotions are valuable, even the negative ones.
We can seek help at the first signs of feeling over-tired, anxious, or depressed. We can discuss mental health issues in our families, churches, and communities. But there’s more.
In the long term, we can advocate for Black mental health. We can enter the fields of social work, psychiatry, and psychology, and encourage everyone to get professional help if they can.
The bottom line is this: we can overcome anything, and we must take care of our young people mentally so that we all can continue to fight for our liberation together.