Eliminating Trauma Gatekeeping: Racial Trauma as a Mental Health Crisis
Halvorson, Emily Ann
Race based stress, also known as racial trauma, is defined as significant distress due to real or perceived racial discrimination. These can include threats to harm and/or injure, shaming and humiliation, and being witness to either behavior towards other minority persons that caused distress due to real or perceived racism (Carter, 2007). Major psychological institutions have yet to efficiently address the sociopolitical contexts which are relevant to confront and alleviate symptoms of insidious racial trauma, leaving clinicians and consumers at a loss. This study provides a multifaceted analysis of policy, institutional powers, media exposure, previous research and theories, and various voices within clinical psychology to explore insidious racial trauma as an urgent mental health crisis. From this analysis, the purpose of this study is to argue that by denying and ignoring racism and race-based stress as trauma, institutions of psychology are creating additional hurdles for Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) to receive important facets of care. Some non-government organizations and advocacy voices have emerged to acknowledge the issues surrounding racial trauma, while major psychological institutions have fallen short of even acknowledging racial trauma. Future research directions should focus on developing more valid and reliable measures of racial trauma, while avoiding pathologizing BIPOC even further. The very frameworks used by these major institutions, such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) must be challenged to provide more inclusive perceptions of trauma in diagnoses, and thus create straightforward pathways to equitable treatment and care for those who experience insidious racial trauma.