Your Health Matters


Local psychiatrist says racism can cause trauma

Posted at 11:50 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 03:09:13-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — In response to the many protests around the nation as people are demanding justice and an end to police brutality, recent events can impact an individual's mental health during this time.

Local board-certified psychiatrist and the medical director of Kern Health Systems, Dr. Traci Powell, said trauma can stem from any stress, threat or perceived threat, and racism is not an exclusion to that.

Dr. Powell explained that the impacts of trauma from racism are similar to an allergic reaction. She said that some people respond differently, where one may have a mild reaction and someone else may have an extreme reaction. Also, that reaction can be immediate or sometimes after prolonged exposure.

"All of that can be a factor and people will respond differently depending on their experience, their resiliency, their support systems but for some people, it can end up leading to anxiety because they're like, is this going to happen again? Am I going to be at risk of losing a job? Am I going to be at risk of my children, not being accepted, just various things that can go through their mind," Powell said.

Depression can also occur following experiencing racism for a prolonged period.

Dr. Powell recommends employees, students, or anyone who does not feel as if they can be fully present at a task during this time to take time off to decompress.

"I've seen a lot of people saying I just can't adult today, where they feel that you know, they can't get on that conference call or go and take care of that. The task that has a deadline. This is a great opportunity for us to start having some crucial open conversations," Powell said. "This is an opportunity where if you do feel comfortable and not everyone does, but if you do feel comfortable talking to your instructor, talking to your boss and letting them know, you know what, I just can't do it today. Can I have a few hours? Can I have a day? Whatever the case may be."

If you or know of someone who may be struggling during this time, Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services provides free support 24/7 and 7 days a week on their crisis hotline at 1-800-991-5272.