People in the inner-cities across the U.S are susceptible to PSTD.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk in the media about mental illness, and one of the main disorders being discussed is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PTSD. The general public has a baseline understanding of PTSD, but few truly understand PTSD.
What makes matters worse is that people from the inner-cities of the United States are especially vulnerable to PTSD. The “Inner city” basically is a term used to describe the “hood” or ghetto of a metropolitan area. These areas typically are poor which means statistically these areas have a higher likelihood of crime. More crime means, a higher potential for violence, which naturally increases the possibility of a traumatic experience.
So, what is PTSD?
Most people think that any traumatic situation can lead to PTSD, including events such as getting cheated on or getting fired from their job. No doubt, these situations can distress anyone, but they do not meet the symptom qualifications for PTSD. Traumatic conditions that do not meet PTSD’s requirements, such as non-life-threatening situations usually meet the criteria for less severe mental illnesses like Adjustment Disorder, which is basically a less intense–but still severe–version of PTSD. Because to meet the criteria for PTSD, the trauma must be actual or perceived exposure to death, death threats, serious injury, or sexual violence.
Not every person who experiences trauma has PTSD and not every person who has PTSD encounters a dangerous situation. Some people develop PTSD under circumstances like suffering a sudden, unexpected death of a loved one. A person can develop PTSD through experiencing trauma in the following ways:
- Direct exposure—i.e., getting shot at or raped
- Witnessing trauma—i.e., seeing else someone killed, or robbed
- Learning a close friend or relative was exposed to trauma—i.e., hearing about your son or daughter dying or acquiring a terminal illness.
- Indirect exposure to disturbing details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)
Now that we got the qualifying traumatic circumstance for a PTSD diagnosis covered, we can get into the symptoms of PTSD. The symptoms fall into separate categories, such as re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood symptoms.
Re-experiencing symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Disturbingof frightening thoughts about the incident
Avoidance includes but is not limited to:
- Avoiding places that remind you of the trauma or could possibly cause a similar situation (avoiding driving on freeways after you had an accident on the highway)
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the situation
Arousal and reactivity symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Difficulty remembering details the traumatic incident
- Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
- Guilt and underserved self-blame
- Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
If you have experienced a traumatic situation that meets PTSD’s requirements and you’ve noticed at least one, re-experiencing symptom, one avoidance symptom; two arousal and reactivity symptoms, and two cognition and mood symptoms, then you may have PTSD. It is in your best interest to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional ASAP.
How does PTSD Impact the Hood?
As I wrote about earlier in this article, PTSD is a disorder predicated on trauma. Although some people are more genetically inclined to have PTSD than others, nobody is born with PTSD. They acquire it through trauma. And as we all know, there is plenty of trauma in the hood. When people are forced to live with limited resources and opportunities, naturally you can expect some people within that environment to commit crimes to survive, which in turn, results in trauma for their victims.
Growing up in the hood you see a little bit of everything; stuff you would not see in the suburbs or a rural area. You see things like robberies, violent fights, people on the corner strung out, prostitutes strolling, and you hear gunshots on a nightly basis.
Although I dabbled in the street life for the majority of my adolescence and part of my adult life, most of the situations concerning community violence that I knew about where experienced indirectly or in the third person, which had minimal effect on my emotional wellbeing.
Very rarely, if ever, did I actually consider how the people involved in these situations processed their experience, and I imagine the rest of society doesn’t give it much thought either. The talk about combat trauma is typically reserved for soldiers, police, and other first responders. People rarely think about the mental health of young men and women who grow up in impoverished areas that are essentially westernized combat zones.
Is the trauma of witnessing close friends die from community violence any less traumatic than a soldier witnessing his comrades die in combat in Iraq? I’m afraid not. Community violence is a problem that is multi-layered, and up until now, it hadn’t occurred to most of us—that actually care about the inner-city communities—that mental illness is a significant consequence of the traumas that people are experiencing every day in poor neighborhoods.