Updated: Jun 29, 2022
What happens to traumatized little boys from the hood? When left untreated these little boys grow into men who’ve unconsciously developed unhealthy coping mechanisms that affect them in every aspect of their lives. With all the stereotypes and prejudices associated with the hood; Why does it seem as though no one is taking the time to speak about the trauma that these individuals face every single day? Or how it impacts their futures?
So many young black boys are witnessing their friends getting killed right in front of them, whether it be by police brutality, gang violence, or simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Higher murder rates aren’t the only factors we have to take into consideration. Research indicates that there are higher poverty rates, higher domestic violence rates, lower employment rates, as well a lack of resources within impoverished areas.
So what does this have to do with PTSD? Exposure to these traumatic experiences have a higher correlation with the development of PTSD. When people hear the term PTSD they typically associate it with veterans and military combat. They don’t see it as something an "everyday person" can experience. Or they simply don't understand it. The reality is that PTSD can affect anyone, and it is more common than we realize.
So what exactly is PTSD? Well PTSD is a mental health diagnosis that is characterized by the development of emotional and somatic symptoms following exposure to a traumatic event. This experience can be something that an individual experienced personally or that they were a witness to. An individual that is experiencing PTSD can have intrusive memories. Meaning they are experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event which is causing them emotional distress. Or an individual is trying to avoid certain feelings/emotions that are brought up by thinking or speaking about the event. So they avoid going to certain places, or talking to certain people that remind them of what happened. Another symptom is negative changes in the way a person thinks or their mood. Which may include things like feeling numb, hopeless, difficulty remembering things, and feeling detached from family and friends. The most common symptom seen in the hood is a change in physical or emotional reactions. Meaning a person is easily frightened/triggered, is self-destructive, or exhibits aggressive behaviors. When it comes to symptoms seen in children 6 or younger they often re-enacting the traumatic event or aspects of the traumatic event through play, and are experiencing nightmares.
The way that society is constructed Black men have to go above and beyond to prove their worth; they are continuously having to overcompensate in order to survive because of how they are portrayed. In one of the articles, I researched a doctor by the name of Dr. Bonhomme indicated that “Black men drive themselves into distorted extremes trying to make up for what society has against them.” and that’s something that I agree with. Black men aren’t given the time to rest and reflect. Which can lead to depressive symptoms. Depression in men can look different than it does in women. Signs in men are often behavioral. Such as gambling, being irritable, sexual promiscuity, and other self-defeating behaviors.
To cope, many individuals self-medicate. Drug use/abuse often co-occur when individuals have experienced traumatic events. This is why it’s so important for individuals to get assistance for treating not only the trauma; but the dependency that they have on drugs and alcohol. Many people have the notion that marijuana isn’t addictive, but so many individuals are dependent on it to get through their day. Some people need to smoke in order to fall asleep, in order to eat, as soon as they wake up, they are using it as a mood regulator, and to numb their pain. Studies show that out of 20.2 million adults who deal with substance abuse disorder about 75% had a co-occurring mental issue. This drug use is a way of coping.
Society tries to make us normalize things like stress and negative emotions. Within the African American community, we sweep a lot of things under the rug, but as we all know the more dirt we sweep under a rug the dirtier it gets. Self-medicating is a way of masking symptoms.
We are all aware of the negative stigma associated with mental health within our community. That stigma is even greater amongst black men, because of distrust. Simply put black men do not want to sit in front of a white man to unpack their trauma and lived experiences. Which is 100% okay. There are black male therapists that have similar lived experiences that can assist you.
So how do we bring awareness to PTSD in the hood? By making conversations like these normal. By making resources more accessible. Know the warning signs. Letting your friends know that it’s okay to get help, and by supporting them. Going to therapy can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms that will positively impact your everyday life. Together we can change the narrative so traumatized little black boys from the hood can grow into healed men.
Henderson, D. (2020, April 23). Invisible Man: Black Men & PTSD: Page 2 of 2: BlackDoctor.org - Where Wellness & Culture Connect. BlackDoctor.org. https://blackdoctor.org/invisible-man-black-men-ptsd/2/.
Russ, B. K. and E. (2020, June 12). Systemic racism can leave black people suffering from symptoms similar to PTSD. Journal. https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2020/06/12/racial-trauma-can-leave-black-people-ptsd-symptoms/3160232001/.