Dr. Michael T. McRae with Founder Roslyn Y. Daniels Speaking About Mental Health at Black Health Matters Summit
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Tackling Trauma for Improved Mental Health

Recognize Your Brilliance and Resilience

If it seems like you’re hearing about trauma a lot lately, you’re not wrong. It is a buzzword these days. But according to mental health practitioners, it’s more than just a trending topic.

“Trauma is a public health issue,” said Michael T. McRae, director of mental health strategy at the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene during the Third Black Health Matters Health Summit held earlier this month at Riverside Church in Harlem, New York. “It gets passed across generations. We all have traumas. That’s the first place to start.”

The next step is understanding that there are layers to trauma. It doesn’t come just from physical or sexual abuse or neglect, McRae explained, but it can also be a byproduct of “bullying, separation from caregivers, incarceration, racism, chronic microaggressions, having a parent who is a substance abuser and toxic stress.”

Traumatic experiences can affect our worldview, making it difficult for us to cope or leaving us feeling like the world isn’t a safe place and that there’s no one we can trust. This can interfere with our ability to feel connected, happy and looking forward to the future.

We may get caught in a cycle of reliving traumatic events or try to cope with illegal substances or unstable relationships.

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The good news is that there are a number of therapies to help us heal.

“We need to recognize our brilliance and resilience, our ability to react,” McRae said. “We should ask, ‘What can I do to have better relationships, better attachments to folks?’ How are we setting aside time for folks in relationships with us? Are you present in those interactions? Are you maintaining connections to people?”

We should also be in tune to our feelings. “If you don’t like how you feel around someone, change that. Honor your feelings. Sit with your feelings,” he said. “Be more present and involved in your emotions.”

But know that there is no cookie-cutter recipe to working through trauma. We have to do what feels right for us.  Black Health Matters has additional articles to read.  See https://blackhealthmatters.com/2017/05/08/debunking-mental-health-myths/.

And we need to practice another current catch phrase: self-care. “How do you do your self-care?” McRae asked. “People talk about a to-do list. I talk about a done list. Affirm yourself. List your accomplishments. Forgive yourself. We talk about forgiving others, but not ourselves.

It’s key to “live your best life,” he said, “to make good decisions, to make good relationships.”

If you are interested in mental health you may want to sign-up for training.  Please see https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/mental-health-first-aid.page

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Dr. Michael T. McRae at the Black Health Matters Summit speaking about Mental Health.

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