Can therapy alleviate the trauma of America’s racist attacks and systemic racism? By Reuters

Documents from Ghislaine Maxwell's criminal case are expected to be released Thursday

2/2 © Reuters. Tracy Park sits in the park where she was yelled at with her daughter, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues, in Hollywood 2/2

By Sharon Bernstein and Barbara Goldberg (Reuters) – Chinese-American mental health counselor Monica Band began receiving a flood of calls and emails shortly after former US President Donald Trump began blaming China for the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. News followed of the murders of six Asian-born spa workers in Atlanta and brutal attacks on people of Asian descent across the country. Band’s mostly Asian-American clients in the Washington, DC area have been spat on, insulted by racists, and in one case physically assaulted on a commuter rail line by an assailant yelling, “Go back to China! ” To help, Band draws on a still-developing field of treatment started by African American physicians who have been working for years to help alleviate the debilitating pain of racist attacks and systemic racism that can be passed down from generation to generation. African Americans are suffering amid increased visibility of racism since the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year and many other high-profile murders. Psychotherapy and other treatments have been developed for survivors of catastrophes such as war and have been customized to meet the needs of people of different cultures and backgrounds. To help people cope with stress, the Association of Black Psychologists organized online group therapy “healing circles” during the trial of the former cop who killed Floyd, said New York-area psychologist Jennifer Jones-Damis. . That trial ended with guilty verdicts earlier this month. Therapists say that people traumatized by racism can experience flashbacks, crying spells and unrelenting worry. Repeated exposure to graphic images and increased seizures make some fear leaving home and feel vulnerable. RISE IN HATE The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism tracked an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans of 149% in 2020 in 16 major cities compared to 2019 in the wake of rhetoric blaming China for the pandemic that started in that country. The number of people seeking help has also increased, and counselors to treat them are scarce, according to therapists interviewed by Reuters. In February, Band started a support group for people who experienced hateful incidents against Asians or were upset by attacks on other people. He also works one-on-one with clients, but has a months-long waiting list. Of about 3,700 Americans of Asian-American and Pacific Islander descent surveyed by DePaul University psychologist Anne Saw, 75% said they believe the United States has become more dangerous for them, preliminary data shared exclusively with Reuters showed. Of 421 people who agreed to be interviewed about racist incidents they had experienced and reported to the Stop AAPI Hate group, 95% said the United States had become more dangerous, said Saw, who conducted part of his research in collaboration with the group. About 40% of the 421 Stop AAPI Hate respondents said they had experienced at least one symptom of traumatic stress based on racism, including depression, hypervigilance, anger, intrusive thoughts, and low self-esteem. “We’re seeing a lot of people experiencing anxiety, depression, racial trauma symptoms that are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” Saw said. But trauma caused by racist attacks or racism does not have a formal mental health diagnosis. “If a phenomenon is not named, it is generally not recognized, and when it is not recognized, it is not treated,” said New York author and therapist Kenneth Hardy, a pioneer in the field of racist trauma. Over the past year, more than 400 physicians have sought training in one of the few formal protocols for treating stress and racial trauma. Psychologist Steven Kniffley’s 12-week program at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky first helps clients know, for example, if they have internalized racist views about themselves. Words or other means are then used to retell and process experiences. Finally, tools to deal with future incidents, such as seeking observer support, are discussed. Connecticut therapist Danielle Spearman-Camblard said she would like to see a racial trauma diagnosis added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of psychiatry. A designation would make it easier for insurance companies to bill for treatment and show that the psychological effects of racism are real, he said. Robert Carter, a Columbia University psychologist who led efforts to educate mental health professionals about the impacts of racism, said injuries caused by racism must be treated. But he said that people who have been affected by racism are not mentally ill and should not be subjected to the stigma that can accompany a diagnosis. Carter opposes the use of treatments developed for PTSD for patients who, for example, develop anxiety and hopelessness after being denied an apartment or job because of their race. He believes that the stress caused by racism is psychologically different from trauma. Dr. Paul Applebaum, who chairs the DSM steering committee of the American Psychiatric Association, said that an upcoming new edition of the manual will not list racial trauma as a condition, but will make explicit reference to racism as a possible underlying cause of various diagnoses, including depression. Tracy Park, 37, did not seek therapy, citing a shortage of Asian-American counselors after she and her family were targeted by racists. In February 2020, when COVID-19 began to spread in the United States, the cheerleader took her infant and newborn baby to a Los Angeles park. As he pushed his stroller toward the exit on the way to the library, a white man yelled at him, “Get your coronavirus babies out of here!” His 65-year-old mother was threatened by another white man later. Park, anxious and sometimes depressed, developed sleep problems and was constantly on guard. She found comfort among a group of mothers who had also experienced hatred against Asians and held “unpacking sessions” online. And he wrote a “zine” expressing his anger and other feelings. But “I’m still scanning the horizon for someone to charge toward us,” Park said. “And that’s no way to live.”