Ask the Expert, Tamar Rodney, PhD, PMHNP-BC: How to Deal with Unrelenting Racial Trauma?

I see police brutality against black people on TV, on social media, everywhere. And it seems like it’s getting worse instead of better. Some days I can barely get out of bed. It feels like too much. I’m not sure what to do. What would you suggest? In this video, Dr. Rodney answers your questions about mental health treatment.

Tamar Rodney, PhD, PMHNP-BC, CNE is an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Her research and clinical work focus primarily on improving PTSD diagnosis and treatment.

For information about treatments for PTSD please visit The Treatment Hub.

Hi. I’m Dr. Tamar Rodney, a psych mental health nurse practitioner. And our question is: “I see police brutality against black people on TV, on social media, everywhere, and it seems like it’s getting worse instead of better. Some days I can barely get out of bed. It feels like it’s too much. I’m not sure what to do. What do you suggest?”

And such a timely question, a socially relevant question. And many persons might have a hard time dealing with this, but like you said, it’s everywhere.

It’s on social media, it’s on TV, and it’s an unfortunate realization. So, I would like to dissect it in two pieces. One to say that we’re bringing light, no pun intended, to a terrible situation that has been going on to many persons for a long time. So, in many ways, I do appreciate that we do have this platform for it to be seen and to be addressed and that it is worrying and that we are seeing something which is bad.

But it gives us an opportunity to start addressing it and start addressing it as individuals, not just because it’s a occurring or seen against black people. The other part is that it is disturbing to look at. And because it’s everywhere, it does affect you. And so, the symptoms you are describing about you can’t get out of bed, classic signs of depression, but it is a visceral reaction to something that we wouldn’t want to be done to no one we love or care for, regardless of race.

And so that is why it’s affecting us. It is too much. It honestly is too much. And so, I would say to you is that taking it in doses. We can’t be tuning to the TV at all times. We are very aware. It’s what we do afterwards that helps. So, knowing and getting information is really important. Knowing your body and how it deals with that information is equally important and giving yourself time to heal from that.

It is very easy to get overwhelmed just because of the brutality of the situation. But what you’re doing here, which I think is remarkable and great, even though it’s depressing is that you are recognizing and verbalizing the feelings that you’re getting. And one of the things we don’t want to do is to avoid. Don’t avoid the feelings that you’re feeling. So, you said you can barely get out of bed, and there are many days we’re going to have to be like that. That is a part of how we cope. We can’t interact with anyone because it is something which is depressing to us.

Your first piece is telling someone else that this is hard to deal with, that is healthy coping. That is essential healthy coping. And another good nugget here is that what you’re seeing, many other individuals are seeing too, and so that starts a healthy conversation about what we can individually do to help each other while we allow a systemic change. So, it’s not on us to change that it’s on social media and it’s everywhere, but at our individual level we can start to say this is wrong and what can I do as an individual to start to change that narrative in how we treat each other.

So, difficult question, a difficult experience for many individuals, but a needed conversation to be had and to acknowledge that it’s everywhere and should be seen. So, thank you for that.

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Posted on BrainLine November 17, 2021. Reviewed November 17, 2021.