On Trauma, Racism, and How We Show Up for Each Other

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. We talk about it a lot at Crisis Text Line because we spend our days—and nights—helping people work through difficult emotions. Racism, and the many ways it manifests in our society, causes acute and sustained trauma. If you are struggling to cope any day—and especially now—you are not alone. Your feelings are valid. And, there are people here to support you. 

If you need support, text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor. 

The acts of violence this weekend have caused trauma and devastation. Once again, we watch in horror as multiple mass shootings took place in the United States. The shootings targeting Black and Asian communities could be triggering for anyone—yet, for Black and Asian folks living through targeted violence and centuries of systemic racism, the acute pain is far greater. These violent events mark nearly 200 mass shootings so far in 2022.  

The shootings in Buffalo, Dallas, Houston and Orange County this weekend hold particular weight depending on your lived experience. The shooting in Buffalo is a crescendo bringing to bear yet again the ways racism threatens Black people’s physical safety. The shooting in Dallas is yet another reminder of the onslaught of targeted acts of violence against the Asian American community that have heightened over the last few years. It’s understandable if these blatant displays of racism and violence are triggering and traumatizing for you. Prolonged exposure to systemic racism, whether through violent incidents or micro aggressions, contributes to chronic stress and other risk factors that worsen mental health.

If you’re feeling triggered by these acts of racism and violence, you don’t need to process your emotions alone. Here are a few ways to cope:

  1. Focus your mind. When the news is swirling, it can be easy to get overwhelmed quickly. Try breathing for a few minutes with specific attention to every inhale and exhale.
  2. Connect with intention. In moments when you’re feeling overwhelmed or isolated, it’s often helpful to surround yourself with people who love and care about you. Try reaching out to friends and family and be as specific as you can about how you need and want them to support you. 
  3. Reach out for support. You don’t have to go through hard things alone. Reaching out is a brave thing to do. Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor. We’re here for you. If you’re looking for resources specific to the Black and AAPI communities, Asian Mental Health Collective, and AAKOMA Project are great places to start. 

If you’re watching this news unfold, you may also be wondering how you can help. Here are some of the tips we share with our volunteer Crisis Counselors who are supporting people who are texting in crisis because of gun violence and racism. 

  1. Validate feelings. If someone confides in you about how they’re struggling to cope with the violence this weekend, it’s important to validate and acknowledge how they’re feeling. Try phrases like, “I’m hearing you feel enraged and devastated by what happened,” or “I can hear how (infuriating, exhausting, heartbreaking) this is for you.”
  2. Help them find connection. If someone is in crisis, it may be helpful for them to find connection to their social networks. But, you can’t be there for everyone all the time. Help them identify a shortlist of people to turn to who can give them the support they need. 
  3. Encourage them to take care of their mental health. With this kind of news, it can be hard for people to step away to take care of themselves. Show your support by helping them identify a few small things they can do to prioritize their mental health. This could include going for a walk, listening to music, journaling, and more. 

Along with the perpetual violence against our communities, we’re also inundated with nonstop information on tv, social media, and out in the world. This moment asks us to show up for each other like never before. It’s counting on us to acknowledge each other’s pain and find our shared humanity. With the layers of trauma and violence unfolding in front of us, it’s understandable to feel sadness, grief, anxiety, and everything in between. Your feelings are valid. Crisis Text Line is here to listen and offer support. The bravest thing you can do is to reach out. Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor.

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