Police Shootings: Overcoming Hazards to Community Health

I know I am not alone when I say that the constant news of senseless murders of youth, men, and women by police officers is beyond disturbing. So much so, that at times I worry about my safety and the safety of others. While walking across the street one day, after hearing of the news release about the murder of Botham Shem Jean in his home, while asleep--I randomly had a thought and accompanied images of a  life being taken during a home invasion.

I am a trauma therapist and consultant by trade and felt that I had to say something about the impact of the current human condition. The headlines with senseless murders and ongoing injustice have a high likelihood of causing and contributing to stress responses. BUT, I wanted to avoid contributing to the depressing nature of the content. So this blog will be about overcoming, recognizing, and responding to painful and overwhelming life scenarios; within and outside of your community.

Recognizing Toxic Stress

Growing up I was exposed to trauma or toxic stress. In my daily work, I am exposed to the impact of trauma and toxic stress. In my humble observation, the current human condition often times mirrors toxic stress. I see it and hear about it in politics, work environments, home environments, etc. You likely see the impact every day and do not recognize it. Here are some examples of stress responses that may occur:

1.      Thoughts about you or a loved one being harmed. 

2.      Distrust of a place, community, and/or person.

3.      Worry about rather a loved one will return home.

When you or someone you know experience stress responses due to hearing about or witnessing someone being harmed, it is described as "secondary post-traumatic stress", and other times sometimes called "vicarious trauma". These terms describe the different types of symptoms associated with chronic, toxic stress. Stigmatized behaviors such as anger, aggression, criminal activity, abuse, substance use, etc are often symptoms of toxic stress.

It is evident that the human race is struggling with toxic stress due to daily, ongoing threats to safety. The news and murders may cause, contribute, and/or exacerbate the human stress response symptoms that may look like anger, substance abuse, criminal behaviors, anxiety, depression, impulsive behaviors, etc.

Human Stress Response System

The human stress response is triggered anytime safety is threatened. These stress responses are normal responses and nothing to be ashamed of. The activation of the stress response system is an issue when it is activated for extended periods of time and/or at high rates. Here are some examples of safety threats that may trigger stress responses:

A.      Social Safety: Concern that clothing or hairstyle is the cause of particular treatment.

B.      Physical Safety: Someone threatens to hit or touch you when you do not want to be touched.

C.      Psychological Safety: Critical judgement of your thoughts and feelings.

D.      Moral Safety: Taking a life because your life was in jeopardy.

Managing Toxic Stress

1.       Be mindful of what you put into your mind and who you surround yourself with; it impacts your motivation. Find daily reminders about the other side of life. Try not to lose sight that even with the chaos, suffering, pain, and loss, there exists, strength, unity, collaboration, progress, empowerment, etc. 

a.       Visit our Pinterest Board or Facebook Page for resources, uplifting news, inspiration, and more.

b.      Read about positive news and stories occurring in the world. Balance is important for perseverance, healing, and resilience.

2.       Demand police officers receive consultation and/or therapy services to support their stress responses, especially as it relates to bias that too often results in loss, grief, and suffering. Such a petition should be supported by police officers and community members alike, as both a proactive and reactive measure.

a.       Sign a petition demanding police accountability or create your own here.

3.        Seek additional support for yourself, children, or loved ones. We offer personal, family, and professional services to support understanding, recognition, and responses to toxic stress.

a.       Schedule an appointment with one of our therapists.

b.      Join a cohort of professionals