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How to Support Someone with Racial Trauma

July is Minority Mental Health Month, and it’s a good time to learn about racial trauma and what we can do to support those who experience it. Racial trauma stems from racism and discrimination and how they affect a person’s mental health. Whether the discriminating behaviors are big or small, they can result in real trauma for people of color, and can affect a person’s self-worth and overall outlook on life.

Many people in minority populations are all too familiar with indirect or subtle discrimination that is usually unintentional. This type of behavior is called a microaggression. Microaggressions can come from a place of learned prejudice which is why they are often done inadvertently. “Regardless of if they’re intentional or not, microaggressions can still be demeaning and insulting,” says Kala Hight, Licensed Mental Health Counselor at Centerstone.

When seeking mental health services for racial trauma or other issues, people of color can also experience significant barriers like the lack of representation in mental health care. When speaking to a counselor of another race or ethnicity, it can be hard for them to understand the patient’s lived experiences. In some cases, patients say they feel like they are spending more time educating their counselor than receiving they help they’re looking for. Another common barrier to minority mental health treatment is the cultural and generational barrier that people of color can experience. “Generationally, people of color are taught not to trust medical professionals,” adds Hight, as this comes from a long history of medical mistreatment for minority groups. Being exposed to this ideology may also instill the message that feelings should be suppressed and not processed.

If you want to offer support to a person of color who is seeking mental health treatment, consider the following:

  1. Do your own research and ask the right questions. Remember that it’s okay to ask questions, but that they can’t speak for their entire minority group. Instead, ask them questions about their own lived experiences:
    1. “What has your experience been?”
    2. “What are things that you wish were different?”
    3. “What would make things feel more comfortable for you?”
    4. “Are you okay?”
  2. Talk to them about your own experience with mental health treatment. It can be comforting to hear that someone else has been in the same situation, and had a positive experience.
  3. Help them find resources. Many online resources exist that can help supplement face-to-face counseling. Books, podcasts or even community groups can provide great support among people with similar lived experiences.
  4. Offer encouragement. Be there for them, and support them in a way that they can best receive it.

If you or someone you know is hoping to heal racial trauma, Centerstone can help. Call us at 877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123) or visit our counseling services page.

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