Empowering Healing: The Y’s Role in Trauma Treatment Support

Published On: February 26, 2024Categories: Blog

As we celebrate the last few days of Black History month we want to amplify Race-Based Traumatic Stress (RBTS), a mental health condition that speaks to the unique psychological and emotional distress that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) suffer because of racism and discrimination.

These experiences can exist on a societal level like the murder of, African Americans like George Floyd. Community or local level aggressions comprise race-based traumas like teenagers being expelled from schools in your community for refusing to cut their dreadlocks.

Individual interactions, or microaggressions refer to specific experiences of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and nationalism. Examples may include people clutching their purses when walking past young African American men or asking someone who is racially diverse what they “are” or where they are from. Microaggressions can be accidental and still cause tremendous harm. The impact and consequences of race-based traumatic stress are similar to other forms of trauma and the toll from these experiences is cumulative.

BIPOC are at very high risk of experiencing and reexperiencing traumatic stressful events, which may compound and mirror symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Research shows that at least 63% of Black Americans, along with 47% of Latinx Americans, 6% of Asian Americans, 5% of American Indians or Alaskan Natives, and 4% of multiracial individuals endorse experiencing at least one racially charged trauma in their life” (www.abct.org).

RBTS is associated with several psychiatric and somatic symptoms, including depression, anxiety, headaches, upset stomach or gastrointestinal issues, humiliation, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, loss of appetite, hypervigilance, crying spells, difficulty concentrating, low self-esteem, and avoidance behaviors. Trauma in all forms can also severely impact medical health and result in a declining life span.

How Can Greater Austin YMCA Help?

We offer a wide array of services to support BIPOC and the larger community address many of the symptoms related to race-based traumatic stress and other forms of trauma through our Whole Person Wellness Services:

  • Our Everline Counseling Program offers treatment for RBTS and other forms of trauma, anxiety, depression, marital or family discourse, substance use issues, and parenting in English and Spanish.
  • To support the work of therapy we offer several Mind/Body or “mental health adjacent” class offerings including various forms of Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates that will continue to support the connection between our minds and our bodies. We also offer strength-based classes like core and body pump that help to strengthen our bodies as we strengthen our minds.
  • For those that are looking to improve their physical health as they work to improve their mental health, we offer individual personal training and small group strength training options like “Women on Weights and Bootcamps.

These are just a few of the Whole Person Wellness services we offer.

In a world where most of us have to make a concerted effort to avoid painful or traumatic images and stories in the news or on social media, many BIPOC don’t have that luxury, as they both experience trauma based on their racial identity and then re-experience it in the images and stories told by friends and family in addition to the news and social media.

So, as we celebrate the last few days of Black History month, Greater Austin YMCA invites members of ALL communities to allow us to be a respite from your daily struggles. We stand ready to support you on your journey towards whole person wellness.

*For more information about RBTS please visit https://www.mhanational.org/racial-trauma

Kristen Pierce Vreeke, LMFT-S, is the creator of Everline Counseling, the Greater Austin YMCA’s initiative to make mental health more affordable and accessible.

All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to info@austinymca.org