Minority communities have been affected by the consequences of historical events that have left imprints on their mental health. The history of mental health and historical trauma has a significant impact on the mental health efforts people use today. Emphasizing ways to prioritize mental well-being, despite the challenges posed by racism, discrimination, and oppression, can lead to better mental health outcomes.
The Administration for Children and Families defines historical trauma as, “intergenerational trauma experienced by a specific cultural group that has a history of being systematically oppressed.” The effects of slavery, colonization, forced displacement, and ongoing social injustices have continuously affected the mental well-being of minority communities.
Historical trauma continues to have a powerful influence on minority mental health, even today. Individuals from underserved communities often face higher rates of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The trauma and hardships endured by previous generations have been passed down and absorbed by current generations through thoughts, ideas, and actions.
Systemic racism and discrimination have not only shaped historical events but have also shaped the minds of people of color (POC). The consistent exposure to racism, both overt and subtle, introduces individuals from minority backgrounds to stress, which makes them more susceptible to mental health challenges.
On a similar note, oppression, based on the same factors as discrimination, also takes a toll on mental health. These factors being race, ethnicity, gender, and/or sexual orientation make oppression similar to discrimination but different.
Oppression shows itself in ways like limited access to resources, limited access to educational opportunities, and the creation of laws that make socioeconomic advancement as difficult as possible.
Continuous exposure to oppression plants feelings of powerlessness, diminished self-worth, and stress, all of which negatively impact mental well-being.
Despite the challenges that minority communities and individuals face, there are steps that can help prioritize mental health and lessen the effects of historical trauma. Here are some recommendations:
Engage in conversations with family, friends, or neighbors.
Attend cultural events and activities that encourage understanding and unity within your community.
The lasting impact of historical trauma on minority mental health cannot be ignored. By acknowledging the historical background, understanding the challenges continuously faced by underserved communities, and taking proactive steps to prioritize mental well-being, we can address and hopefully alleviate the effects of historical trauma.
About The Author
Elijah Buchanan is a Marketing Specialization Intern at Our Healthy Community. He is a Cleveland, Ohio native that is currently a Student at The Ohio State University, majoring in marketing. His philosophy towards work is to try and challenge himself continuously, as he enjoys absorbing information and gaining new skills.