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Black Men and Traumatic Stress

By on June 22, 2015

The connections among mind, body and environment are captured well in the most recent studio album by Pharoahe Monch titled PTSD: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Pharoahe Monch’s album PTSD offers hope amidst emotional suffering, freedom despite oppression, connection after alienation, and even transparency around mental health in African American communities. To Monch, PTSD was both a challenge and opportunity. The title track “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”, documents bravery in sharing traumatic experiences; and those that found supportive spaces to heal.

Past, Present and Future Trauma

Among youth 10-24, suicide is the third leading cause of death, with about 4600 deaths per year (CDC, 2014). However, 157,000 youth are seen yearly in emergency rooms from self-inflicted injuries. 

PTSD is “an intense physical and emotional response to thoughts and reminders of the event that last long after the traumatic event” (CDC, 2014). It often co-occurs with depression, from distress and an inability to cope. PTSD should be considered alongside Continuous Traumatic Stress (CTS) as a phenomena in many of our communities where the persistent, unpredictable and faceless nature of stress is coupled with an absence of sufficient support.

PTSD symbol conceptual design

Hip Hop Speaks on Connection, Community, Change

Evidence is strong that young people use music as a form of self-health “to get better.”

Engaging music in this way is helpful for youth in counseling and those that are less willing to seek out third party help – unwilling to go to or continue with a counselor, and ambivalent about or unable to reach out to a parent, guardian or mentor. Other artists, like Monch on his song [“TIME2”], have shared their own experiences with stress and trauma, even on camera, including Kid Cudi, Kanye West, DMX, LL Cool J. Frankly, much of Hip Hop is filled with narratives of stress and trauma, but Monch couples this with pathways to resilience [“PTSD”], growth [“D.R.E.A.M.”], and a greater sense of community and civic engagement [“STAND YOUR GROUND”].

What Can I Do?

Remember… Listen, Think, Act! Be a Safe Space. Stop the Shame. Erase the Stigma. Be a Place of Trust, Safety and Dialogue. Do not pretend to know all the answers for how to help, but be honest when you see a need for professional help. The dialogue can help sort out truth and fiction, shed light on the nature of trauma (past or present), and develop safer and healthier ways to deal with the stress. Help create #SafeSpaces. #PTSD and for immediate crisis support, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


Article is courtesy of Dr. Raphael Travis, Jr. and Alhaji Jalloh.