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Collective Trauma in Our Communities

The mental wellbeing of our entire community has been severely hurt by the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer. For our African American community members, who live with the daily fear that their children, their family members or they themselves could be killed, the pain of this situation is beyond describable. This recent incident came on the heels of the violent killings of other African American individuals.

When people experience or witness violent acts like abuse and murder, they can experience a host of symptoms resulting from that trauma, including numbness, depression, anxiety, anger, helplessness, flashbacks, agitation, and nightmares. These are normal and understandable reactions to horrific events that should not be normal.

As a community we are collectively traumatized right now — especially since this all happened against the backdrop of COVID-19, which had already left us feeling anxious and isolated. This trauma is worse for those who live with the daily fear of being targets. And now we are witnessing city after city explode with frustration, desperation, and hurt.

Mental Health America of Los Angeles is committed to furthering the health, safety, and access to resources — housing, education, health care, and employment — for all members of our community. As an agency, we are working to bring more resources to our communities to address the impact of trauma through initiatives that build resilience.

I urge you to protect your own resilience and the wellbeing of those close to you during this difficult time. Don’t isolate socially; reach out to others and call people close to you. If you are finding it hard to cope right now, please reach out for help.

No person or group of people should have to live in fear. Until everyone is safe, treated fairly and equally, and has access to needed resources, our larger communities will not be mentally healthy.

Christina Miller, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Mental Health America of Los Angeles and a clinical psychologist.