How the Historical Trauma in your Community affects your Mental Health.
History teaches us about our origins. It gives us the opportunity to understand that we come from somewhere. Our communities of origin gives us a road map to understand who we are. In connection to this, it may also reveal information to better understand our mental health. Indeed, we learn dysfunctional behaviors at home, and then we pass them from one generation to another. Most of these behaviors stem from traumatic experiences that happened to our ancestors in response to events that took place in our communities of origin. Indeed, there is a form of transgenerational trauma called Historical Trauma. This refers to the cumulative emotional wound that an individual or a community as a whole endures in response to a traumatic event. Indeed, there are communities that endured events such as natural disasters, war, slavery, terrorism, persecution, discrimination, or genocide. In response to this type of events, a whole generation can develop a trauma. Later, that affected generations becomes responsible to raise the following generation. Hence, many of us might be affected by Historical Trauma even if we did not experience the event ourselves. For this reason, it can be very helpful for us to understand our origins, and the traumas that our whole community experiences to better understand our mental health. There is a more complex layer to this related to intersectionality of identities. This refers to the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. Indeed, a person who is simultaneously a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a member of an ethnic minority might have a significant accumulation of historical trauma to address. Intersectionality of identities can encompass race, culture, gender, social class, sexual orientation, religion, physical disability, mental disability, mental illness, and migratory status, just to mention some of them.
Today, it is important to reflect about community trauma because of the social cost that represents. Indeed, abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction stem from trauma. This type of untreated trauma lead to outcomes such as inability build healthy relationships, poor stress management, substance abuse, poverty and homelessness. Poor support at home, leads to lower ability to be resilient.
A year ago, the city of Orlando suffered of a traumatic event that can have effects that can last for generations. Indeed, the tragedy at Pulse affected several communities, and several individuals with intersectional identities. Furthermore, many of the survivors and affected from the tragedy come from communities that already accumulated historical trauma prior to the event. An event of this nature, not only traumatized the LGBTQ+ community, the Latin community, or the LatinX community. It re-traumatized them. As we raise future generations, we are at risk of passing the Historical Trauma to them. Therefore, it is vital to heal as a community. Those who address and treat this trauma, will not only help themselves, but they will protect the future of those who follow.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) regards community trauma and violence as a preventable issue. In this respect, they provide a series of recommendations:
-An emergency-room based violence interruption and retaliatory prevention program.
-A city mural arts programs to bring residents together to simultaneously transform physical space and mindsets and attitudes regarding connecting people across race, age, and neighborhood.
-Law enforcement training on crisis intervention and trauma; districts creating trauma-informed schools and identifying the impact of uneven discipline practices across diverse populations;
-An entire county public health department training their workforce in trauma-informed care;
-Neighborhood and faith-based leadership providing better supports for people re-entering the community from incarceration.
-The use of media and public events to highlight the power of peer support.
As we reached the one year mark of Pulse, Orlando has been seeking to heal as a community, and that is reflected in the events that took place recently in the History Center, outside of Pulse, in Lake Eola, and other locations. However, treating community trauma starts with the individual. We can help our community through our actions, and voluntarisms. Nonetheless, we have to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves first. Please, assess your level of functioning and symptoms before helping. We can only be effective helpers if we take care of our wellness first.