'Communities are tired.': Durham psychologist talks people of color coping with racial trauma

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dr. Anthony Smith is a licensed psychologist at Alase Center for Enrichment in Durham. He says most people experience some form of post-traumatic stress.

But people of color deal with the added strain of racial trauma.

"You probably have heard people say.. if this was a white person.. anytime you hear that comment you know that there is trauma there," said Dr. Smith.

The recent death of Andrew Brown and other Black people by law enforcement adding more heartbreak to these rallying cries of racial injustice.

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"That is painful. And we are tired. Mothers are tired, sisters are tired, fathers are tired, and communities are tired," said Brown's family attorney Chantal Cherry-Lassiter, during a press conference on Tuesday.

For Dr. Smith, racial trauma hit him recently when he was pulled over for speeding during a traffic stop.

Smith says he was afraid for his life.

"I just felt myself.. just stay calm. Put my hands on the steering wheel and I just sat there," said Dr. Smith.

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"I could feel myself getting emotional just even having that exchange. Said I was speeding, wrote me a ticket and I was able to go and just the feeling of relief that came over me was like-thinking to myself this is not a way to live. People should not have to live like this."

In 2018, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found in areas where there are police killings-Black mental health suffers.

The trauma contributing to 1.7 days of poor mental health per Black person every year.

According to a 2016 study by the Washington Post, black people make up 13 percent of the us population, but 24 percent of those killed by police.

"What has been done historically to people that look like me..there is this cultural fear that results from that history and until things are different I won't have a reason to act differently."

But there are ways to cope with racial PTSD.

In Dr. Smith's new book: No More Trauma, No More Drama, he encourages people to gauge the severity of their trauma on a temperature scale of 1-10, anything over 3 should be checked right away.

Smith says try to disconnect from what's causing the pain and do something positive, or channel the energy into activism.

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If left unchecked, he says racial trauma can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes or an aneurysm.

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Have anxiety as restrictions loosen? "Our social skills really haven't been exercised in the last year," says Alliance Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mehul Mankad.

Dr. Smith book, No Trauma, No Drama is available for purchase at www.alase.net.
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