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PTSS – Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Dr. Joy Angela DeGruy has worked as an Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work at Portland State University. The main focus of her work was on the intersection of racism, violence, trauma, and chattel slavery in America. The following video features Dr. DeGruy at a Gustavus Adolphus College lecture on PTSS:

Dr. DeGruy has more than 30 years of professional experience in the world of social work and all of its issues. She organizes training and workshops in the fields of historical and intergenerational traumas, strategies on social justice issues, mental health, and evidence-based program development.

Dr. DeGruy is a nationally and internationally recognized educator and researcher who is holding a BSc degree in Communications, Master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology and Social Work, as well as a Ph.D. in Social Work-related Research.

All through her research, Dr. DeGruy has been shining a light on all sorts of critical issues that continue to affect society, in particular in the United States. Students and coworkers who have been experiencing Dr. DeGruy personally in her work will testify that they have been extremely “inspired, stimulated, and enlightened.” Dr. DeGruy’s seminars, lectures, and workshops have continuously been lauded as among the most inspirational and dynamic currently presented on issues and topics of race relation, culture, and today’s social issues.

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The Importance of History Education to Black America

Frederick Douglass, at the twenty-third anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, stated that “Education, the sheet anchor to a society where liberty and justice are secure, is a dangerous thing to society in the presence of injustices and oppressions….” Douglass knew that in order for black people in America to survive, they had to be educated because it was the one area that could make the weak person strong and the black person equal.

By the time the modern day Civil Rights Movement started, its leaders already knew that education was knowledge, and that knowledge was power. In order for black people to gain their equality, they would have to have a solid foundation to stand on, and that foundation would be education.

William and Mary Houston understood this well and they made sure that their only child, Charles, received the best education they could offer him. Charles Houston would grow up to become a very important factor in the Civil Rights Movement by, indirectly, helping to desegregate American schools, giving black people the chance to achieve the same level of education that white people received.

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Reducing Mental Health Disparities

Cultural Conflicts Are Barriers to Treatment and Training

First, let’s look at this video in which Dr. Joy Degruy explains the historically grown psychological disorders which run rampant in the U.S. Her book about Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome is a masterpiece that gives a clear idea about the past, present, and future of slavery and discrimination-related issues.

Dynamic cultural conflicts are when two cultural styles are operating at the same time but in contradiction to one another. Dynamic cultural conflicts should be identified and addressed.
American workers are taught to separate work, professional and personal lives.
Yet to become culturally competent it is necessary to understand one’s personal cultural experience. A cultural conflict. We are not accustomed to revealing our selves in professional settings
The more aware one is of his or her cultural norms, values, communication styles, the easier it is to consider and grasp another persons’ culture.

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What do we know about People of Color?

More Than a Pound of Cure, an Ounce of Prevention: Core Constructs for Reducing Mental Health Disparities…

In the following video, Dr. Joy DeGruy is talking about her invaluable work at the Association for Baha’i Studies. Her book about Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) is addressing the issue of healing the wounds inflicted on so many in our country.

So what do we know about People of Color?

  • They have shorter life spans.
  • They have higher rates of heart disease, cancer, and hypertension.
  • They have higher rates of negative effects of substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases (NIH, 2000).
  • Chronic physical illness creates a higher risk of psychological distress (e.g., anxiety and depression).

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The Racially Inclusive Model

Race, Racial Identity and Psychotherapy: The Racially Inclusive Model – Race in the United States-The psychology and social boundaries that divide people are mostly racial.

In the following video about The U.S. System of Racial Inequity (a World Trust film), educator and author Dr. Joy DeGruy shares with us how one of her relatives (her white sister-in-law) is using her privilege as a white individual to fight systemic inequity:

Race is one of the most enduring and elusive aspects of life. Race has been a central theme throughout American history, from the Constitution to the Civil War to the denial of Native American and Black citizenship and social participation.

Despite the central and enduring significance of race in society, the psychology, psychiatry, and mental health disciplines treat race as a descriptor of primarily Black people and delineate the psychological effects of their status as victims of racism.

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Traumatic Stress in Communities of Color

Race and Culture in Mental Health

Our cultural context (race, ethnic group, gender, religion, language, social class and so forth) is influencing the way how we understand mental fitness and health. The culture we live in additionally determines the concepts of normal and/or abnormal. Just take a look at the following video where Dr. Joy Angela DeGruy talks about her theory of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome or PTSS.

The circumstances in society, such as access to work, shelter, and health care, also influence our understanding of our experience and how we function in our communities and in society. Anthropological and cross-cultural studies show that cultural beliefs and ideas about what actually mental illness signifies are affecting treatment and its course.

Researchers agree that cultural bias operates in diagnoses since a lot of clinicians (irrespective of group membership or racial/cultural background) are socialized and taught during professional development to see people of Color as more disturbed then Whites. Symptoms of disturbance may be experienced and expressed differently by members of distinct cultural groups.

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The Unidentified Trauma: Racial Harassment

Health professionals have acknowledged for many years that people who are subjugated to particular types of physical, psychological, and/or emotional assaults experience – trauma or traumatic stress. Check out also this video in which Dr. Joy DeGruy talks about PTSS (Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome):

Racial Trauma – is the emotional, physiological, and/or psychological damage resulting from discrimination and/or harassment. Racial Trauma is based on evidence demonstrating that racial harassment and/or discrimination in relation to the fact that racism causes stress for the targets.

Racial Discrimination – is a form of “Aversive” or avoidant racism.

Racial Harassment – is a form of “Domination of Dominative Racism” and is characterized by active hostility.

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