Who: Although Chicago has been experiencing unprecedented levels of gun violence, it is not the only US city suffering. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice called the violence happening in cities across the country “a national crisis.” The fact is 1 in 5 children in the U.S. have reported witnessing violence in their family/neighborhood and 83% of inner city youth report experiencing one or more traumatic events.
What: When we think about the violence our first thoughts are of death or physical injury. However, one of the results of the violence that is often overlooked is the resulting trauma. Many people don’t even know they’re experiencing trauma, but some of the symptoms include uncontrollable fears, frequent nightmares, difficulty trusting people and places, persistent sadness, and sometimes addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Where: There are many places where people can go to get help with the emotional stress i.e. trauma of witnessing, experiencing, or having worries about violence. A great online source is the “Coping with Traumatic Events Resources” on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website (samhsa.gov). A good resource in the city for finding help is the Urban Youth Trauma Center at University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
When: It’s never too early or too late to seek help if you think you or someone you love could benefit from support.
How: If a traumatic event you witnessed, experienced, or fear has you feeling anxiety – here are a few exercises you can do to cope and calm yourself even while sitting in class.
1. Carry things with you that evoke happy memories or that you find soothing like a picture or trinket that someone you love gave to you. When you are feeling anxious, take it out to remind yourself of safe spaces and people with whom you feel safe. Look at it in detail looking for things about it you may not have noticed before. Make sure that the photo and trinket only evoke happy memories and pleasant feelings. You don’t want to focus on anything that makes you feel sad – this will only deepen your anxiety and trauma.
2. When you are feeling anxious, examine your thinking by asking yourself questions – What is making me feel anxious? What is the evidence that this thought is true? What is the evidence that it is not? What would I tell a friend if he or she had the same thought? Is it possible that there is just as much chance of a positive outcome as a negative one? What action can I take to get to the positive outcome?
Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash