Black Mental Health and Generational Trauma

By: Kenyan Carter | Reporter

The Black Student Union and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority presented another edition of the Mind over Matter mental health series on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Mind over Matter is a program that discusses mental health issues with South Alabama students.

Tuesday’s mental health series was the Black History Edition in acknowledgment of Black History Month. 

Bri Burrell, the Vice President of the Black Student Union and senior at South hosted and moderated the discussion. Burrell spoke about the importance of talking about mental health specific to the experiences of African Americans.

“There has been, and there is a bias in the black community around mental health,” Burrell said. “So many disorders and behaviors from these biases stem from slavery and segregation and certain institutions in the United States that has specifically affected the black community.”

An example of this brought up in the discussion was  Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, a term coined by Dr. Joy DeGruy. PTSS, according to Dr. DeGruy, is the capsulation of the multi-generational trauma of African Americans following 300 of slavery. 

Burrell described how PTSS has integrated into contemporary life. 

“Some of these behaviors are starting to become normalized or socialized and adapted into our society when they really are trauma behaviors,” Burrell said. “Like how DeGruy said that some children don’t think of experiencing adulthood because they’ve seen so much death around them. We are so accustomed to trauma that we’d rather accept it than heal from it.”

Students at the event also spoke about the adaptive behaviors of being an African American. One student described having to tiptoe around emotional tropes often attributed to black women.

“You don’t want to come off as the angry black lady,” the student said. “When you express yourself, you have to be careful in how you express yourself, and be articulate and be exact, but you can’t express yourself in anger.”

Burrell believes events like this are important for building solidarity. “It was important for us to have this discussion so we can talk about things that affect us and ways we can progress and heal from it,” Burrell said.

For more information about the Black Student Union and future events click here.