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    Experiencing Community Trauma

    Dana Allyn MSW, LCSW 06/09/2020
    We are experiencing historic and stressful times. We are faced with a pandemic, deaths, racism, rioting, and an ever widening troublesome rip in the fabric of our community. These events can create uncertainty and a feeling of being overwhelmed and out-of-control.

    Not only can we experience our own individual traumas, but we can also experience community trauma. Community trauma refers to watching or learning how trauma has impacted homes, churches, and your community as a whole.  It means knowing and understanding that no one is untouched.

    Community trauma is a widespread belief that whole communities can be traumatized. It is not just the group of individuals in a neighborhood who have experienced trauma from exposures to violence, but it is the product of the cumulative impact of regular incidents of interpersonal, historical, and intergenerational violence.

    Unfortunately, social media platforms and other sources of news offer a skewed, polarized view of societal issues. However, it is possible to be informed without being overwhelmed. According to Mayo Clinic psychologist, Dr. Craig Sawchuk, it is important that we establish limits. He recommends spending about 15 to 30 minutes, once or twice a day, catching up on the news. That allows people to feel informed enough, but not too informed where it can induce more stress and anxiety.

    What Can We Do?
    • Stay connected with people. Even if the times necessitate quarantine or social distancing, get creative in ways to stay connected to others. Technology can be a great resource when physical proximity is not an option.
    • Remember the basics! Be sure to get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise. These basic daily tasks support our brains in coping effectively, regulating stress, decreasing depression and anxiety symptoms, and processing information.
    • Keep in mind that you are not alone in this and many others are dealing with the consequences of this distressing time. Be kind to yourself, AND others. Kindness and compassion can go a long way.
    To heal a community, it is important to focus on the things that unite us - not divide us.

    In the words of Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, “Make a difference right where you are planted. Do something to reduce the gap between rich and poor, protect the earth, educate youth, help oppressed peoples. Bring spirituality to bear on all of life."

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