The clashes between white supremacists and counter-protestors at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, 2017 have rattled thousands of Americans across the nation. In the days following the violence, mental health professionals in regions such as the Triangle in North Carolina have reported a sharp increase in the number of people experiencing stress and other emotional disorders. This has resulted in an increase in online searches for mental health resources in Charlotte.
One person was killed and several others were injured when a white nationalist protester rammed his car into the crowd. White nationalists also resorted to anti-Semitic and anti-black sloganeering which left many people, especially minorities, in a vulnerable emotional state. Online searches for “psychologist near me” suggest that people are struggling to overcome the trauma. Suzanne W. Luper, a psychologist at the Triangle Pastoral Counseling in Raleigh, North Carolina, explains that a “real chronic feeling of unpredictability” leads to instability and anxiety.
According to therapists, the politically divided environment is worsened by vitriolic media coverage. The cumulative effect of these circumstances results in emotional upheaval, which necessitates the need for some people to learn coping strategies – doing so helps them restore mental stability and focus on their responsibilities.
Coping strategies to overcome anxiety
Local counselors explain that patients comprising middle-class white youth, Blacks, Jews and sexual minorities offer different reasons for their anxiety. Some feel intimated by right-wing protests whereas others express concerns about the country’s future. Such individuals may exhibit symptoms such as excessive rumination, high adrenalin levels and hyper-vigilance. The situation may be more complex for children and adolescents, particularly if they are already undergoing counseling for uncontrollably high Internet usage and/or behavioral issues.
Depending on patients’ conditions, various coping strategies can be suggested:
- Media and social media detox: Switching off from an endless stream of news high on emotions is a commonly suggested coping strategy by therapists. The same holds true for social media accounts with a penchant for carrying exaggerated posts and aggressive online commentary.
- Volunteering: Participating in volunteering activities that presents opportunities for connecting with other people sailing in the same boat can aid the healing process.
- Alternative interventions: Practicing alternative therapies such as relaxation and mindfulness meditation can be very useful in reducing stress and anxiety. Other activities such as listening to music, reading or taking up a hobby can divert attention from prevailing stressful situations.
- Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to channelize negative thoughts into more constructive and positive emotions.
- Sense of bonding: Taking part in vigils, community meetings or other events help in overcoming isolation since such platforms facilitate interactions with others. They also act as a medium to voice one’s opinion, share grief and vent out frustration.
It is recommended that discussions with children and adolescents are honest and positive. Parents can also take advantage of online resources provided by organizations such as the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), which provides advice on dealing with children who have experienced traumatic events.
Discrimination is a bad practice that affects the physical and psychological well-being of the recipients. The North Carolina Psychological Association has issued a statement highlighting the serious mental health consequences which can result from exposure to discrimination. For those living with a mental illness, it’s time to seek help.
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