health

Can therapy ease the trauma of U.S. racist attacks and systemic racism?

18 Comments
By Sharon Bernstein and Barbara Goldberg

Chinese-American mental health counselor Monica Band started getting a flood of calls and emails soon after former U.S. President Donald Trump began blaming China for the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

News followed of the killings of six Asian-born spa workers in Atlanta and brutal attacks on people of Asian descent nationwide. Band's mostly Asian-American clients in the Washington, D.C., area have been spat on, called racist names and in one case physically assaulted on a commuter rail line by an assailant yelling, "Go back to China!"

To help, Band is drawing on a still-developing treatment field pioneered by African-American clinicians who have been working for years to help ease the debilitating pain of racist attacks and systemic racism that can be passed down generations.

Black Americans are suffering amid heightened visibility of racism since the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year and numerous other high-profile killings.

Talk therapy and other treatments have been developed for survivors of such catastrophes as war and customized to meet the needs of people from different cultures and backgrounds.

To help people cope with stress, the Association of Black Psychologists organized online group therapy "healing circles" during the trial of the former policeman who killed Floyd, New York area psychologist Jennifer Jones-Damis said. That trial ended with guilty verdicts earlier this month.

Therapists say individuals traumatized by racism can experience flashbacks, crying spells and unrelenting worry. Repeated exposure to graphic images and rising attacks make some fear leaving home and feel vulnerable.

RISING HATE

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism tracked a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans of 149% in 2020 in 16 major cities compared to 2019 in the wake of rhetoric blaming China for the pandemic that started in that country.

The number of people seeking help also rose - and counselors to treat them are in short supply, according to therapists interviewed by Reuters. Band in February started a support group for people who suffered anti-Asian hate incidents or were upset by attacks on others. She also works one-on-one with clients but has a months-long waiting list.

Of about 3,700 Americans of Asian-American and Pacific Islander descent surveyed by DePaul University psychologist Anne Saw, 75% said they believe the United States has become more dangerous for them, preliminary data shared exclusively with Reuters showed.

Of 421 people who agreed to be interviewed about racist incidents they had experienced and reported to the group Stop AAPI Hate, 95% said the United States had become more dangerous, said Saw, who conducted a portion of her research in collaboration with the group.

About 40% of the 421 Stop AAPI Hate respondents said they had experienced at least one symptom of racism-based traumatic stress, including depression, hypervigilance, anger, intrusive thoughts and lowered self-esteem.

"We’re seeing numbers of folks experience anxiety depression, racial trauma symptoms that are like nothing we’ve ever seen before," Saw said.

But trauma caused by racist attacks or racism does not have a formal mental health diagnosis.

"If a phenomenon is not named, it is generally not recognized, and when it's not recognized, it's not treated," said New York therapist and author Kenneth Hardy, a pioneer in the field of racism trauma.

Over the past year, more than 400 clinicians have sought training in one of the few formal protocols for treating racial stress and trauma. Psychologist Steven Kniffley's 12-week program at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky first helps clients to learn, for example, whether they have internalized racist views of themselves. Next, words or other means are used to retell and process experiences. Finally, tools for dealing with future incidents, such as seeking support from observers, are discussed.

Connecticut therapist Danielle Spearman-Camblard said she would like a diagnosis of racial trauma added to psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. A designation would make it easier to bill insurance companies for treatment, and show that the psychological effects of racism are real, she said.

Robert Carter, a Columbia University psychologist who led efforts to educate mental health professionals about the impacts of racism, said racism-caused injuries should be treated. But he said people who have been impacted by racism are not mentally ill, and should not be subjected to the stigma that can accompany a diagnosis.

Carter opposes the use of treatments developed for post-traumatic stress disorder for patients who, for example, develop anxiety and hopelessness after being denied an apartment or a job because of race. He believes the stress caused by racism is different psychologically from trauma.

Dr. Paul Applebaum, who chairs the American Psychiatric Association's DSM steering committee, said an upcoming new edition of the manual will not list racial trauma as a condition, but will explicitly reference racism as a possible underlying cause of several diagnoses including depression.

Tracy Park, 37, didn't seek therapy, citing a dearth of Asian-American counselors, after she and her family were targeted by racists.

In February 2020, as COVID-19 began to spread in the United States, the animator took her toddler and newborn baby to a Los Angeles park.

As she pushed her stroller toward the exit on her way to the library, a white man shouted at her: "Get your coronavirus babies the f--k out of here!"

Her 65-year-old mother was threatened by another white man later.

Park, anxious and at times depressed, developed trouble sleeping and was constantly on guard.

She found solace among a group of mothers who had also experienced anti-Asian hate and held online "unpacking sessions." And she wrote a "zine" expressing her anger and other feelings.

But "I'm still scanning the horizon looking for anyone charging toward us," Park said. "And that's no way to live."

© Thomson Reuters 2021.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

18 Comments

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Another long expose pointing to the fact that every American who is not a straight white Christian male is a victim of systematic hate.

Basically, if you're not wearing a Maga hat, you need 24 hour trauma counselling and support because of what Trump did.

3 ( +13 / -10 )

Basically, if you're not wearing a Maga hat, you need 24 hour trauma counselling and support because of what Trump did.

And to a large extent in the US that is true. I am old and white, old enough and white enough that other older whites make assumptions about my world view and blow out. They say what's on their mind with no filter assuming, wrongly as it turns out, based on my age and race I won't be offended by the N-bombs or the equally vile terms they use for Asian, Hispanics and Native Americans. I hear it all. The US is a racist nation. Period. I know it is true because whites say blatantly racist things to me all the time. I don't say anything because in my town it could get you hurt.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

You have to go all the way to the end of the article before you get to the root of all this AAPI hate - it's whitey of course!

...a white man shouted at her: "Get your coronavirus babies the f--k out of here!"

...her 65-year-old mother was threatened by another white man later.

Suspiciously missing from this article though are any statistics of actual violence against Asians. Not just name-calling but the assaults and murders which are being committed overwhelmingly by blacks.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

I'd like to hear a few examples of the systemic racism mentioned in this article.

Systemic racism is a form of racism that is embedded through laws within society or an organization. It can lead to such issues as discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power, and education, among other issues.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

I know it is true because whites say blatantly racist things to me all the time. I don't say anything because in my town it could get you hurt.

I know similar persons and I respond by not using such words and not nodding in agreement. I was raised in Pennsylvania which is a northern state, and there the n-word was common, however, I later lived in Florida and rarely if ever heard that word even though it is a southern state.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Burning BushToday  07:28 am JST

Another long expose pointing to the fact that every American who is not a straight white Christian male is a victim of systematic hate.

uh, okay. Not sure if you’re serious. On the odd chance that you are, there are 3 things you might want to consider:

Not all victimizers are straight, white, Christian or male.

Not all people who aren’t straight, white Christian or male consider themselves victims, no matter what you think about them.

Calling all straight, white, Christian males victimizers (which is essentially what you’re doing) actually makes the situation worse because A: it alienates an important group of people who may be sympathetic to the cause but understandably disagree with that kind of extremist thinking, and B: extremist talk like that only gives the right more freedom to move further right, while giving white supremacists more ammunition and motivation.

I agree that real victims of racism may find many benefits from therapy, but nothing can be gained by vilifying a group of people for nothing more than their identity.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The US is not a systematically racist country, but we do have racists in the country, so does every other nation. More leftists propagated division. Is it a problem, to a certain degree, but you can lump in pretty much most multi-cultural societies, doesn't mean the problems can't and shouldn't be addressed, but to push the race button constantly is counterproductive is insulting.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Everyday there is news of an attack by Blacks against Asians in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or some other Democratic city. Latest ones were in NYC against an Indian man and elderly Chinese lady.

False narratives won’t help Asians. And the main facilitators of Asian hate in America- out of touch elites in Hollywood, media, tech, Ivy League schools- will continue to hide.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Calling all straight, white, Christian males victimizers

That's sexist, racist and religiously discriminatory.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

uh, okay. Not sure if you’re serious

The fact that you're not sure whether or not I was serious worries me even more.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Oh my, the irony of a Japanese news outlet doing a hit piece on "systemic racism in America" is just amazing.

Is this a satire column I didn't know about?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The US is not a systematically racist country, but we do have racists in the country, so does every other nation.

lol Of course America isn't racist. It is just a coincidence that in minorities in general, and blacks specifically, measure lower in just about every measure of well-being. It is just a coincidence that they are more likely to be stopped by cops, become victims of police violence, and less likely to own property than whites. It's just a coincidence that blacks are traditionally under-banked. Just a coincidence that banks were unwilling to lend money to purchase houses in black neighborhoods.

Oh my, the irony of a Japanese news outlet doing a hit piece on "systemic racism in America" is just amazing.

Uh no, it is a piece written by writers are Thompson Reuters published on Japan Today.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Surely we can all agree that anti-asian or anti-black or anti-white - NONE of it is right - and that we should stand against such behavior!?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Racism, in any form, is pathetic. Virtually all Americans, of any ethnicity, don't hate Asians; it's the 0.0001% that are racist, do terrible things, and grab headlines, thus inculcating the rest of us.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I later lived in Florida and rarely if ever heard that word even though it is a southern state.

You didn't live in the Florida Panhandle (aka "Florabama"). When I was stationed there the open racism stunned me. There were still "sunset towns" where blacks did not go out after dark. Even when stationed there I used to joke that the further south in Florida you went, the more northern it became. The Panhandle was more like Mississippi. I also remember my cousins in Texas using their car to run black drivers off the road on Houston freeways. Never visited those cousins again!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The US is not a systematically racist country, but we do have racists in the country, so does every other nation. More leftists propagated division. Is it a problem, to a certain degree, but you can lump in pretty much most multi-cultural societies, doesn't mean the problems can't and shouldn't be addressed, but to push the race button constantly is counterproductive is insulting.

> Another long expose pointing to the fact that every American who is not a straight white Christian male is a victim of systematic hate.

Basically, if you're not wearing a Maga hat, you need 24 hour trauma counselling and support because of what Trump did.

This is an example of how Trump fans and pure blood conservatives want to cover the sun with a finger, being part of the problem defending ones or blaming others for the great and systematic racism of the United States which will never end.

Unless the new generations are educated and get rid of the stupid American exceptionalism believing some that they are still European colonialists from 17th century..

RACISM IS AS AMERICAN AS BASEBALL !!..

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/sports/baseball/boston-red-sox-fenway-park-racism.html

THE END

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Racism is systemic & endemic in the U S A. Always has been.

But, ever since trump gained office, and after, he incites violence against Non- Whites.

How does a nation turn that around?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

 those whites who insist white European culture is superior to all else,

Yeah, it's not as if the Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and nearly everyone else in the world would ever see their cultures as superior in any way. LOL.

The US is a country of Western culture, derived directly from European culture, and for some reason, attracts millions of millions of people around the world who crave a better life for themselves and their children. The other big destinations for such freedom seekers are Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Hmm, I think were seeing a pattern here....

If "white people" are proud or even smug about their culture's success and universal appeal, they have very good grounds to be that way.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

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