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PTSD: Black Men Under Siege

By on July 27, 2015
Trauma_ Black Men


The latest images in the news of African American Men being gunned down, choked out, beaten, and suffering life altering injuries at the hands of the police has captivated our attention. The mental health of so many African American Men has been forever changed due to these fatal trends.

Many African American Men are living with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

                                    ‘When I see a cop, I get nervous, jittery, and I take off the headphones, remove my sunglasses, remove my hoodie and don’t make eye contact. I don’t want them think that I’ve done something wrong.’ Anonymous

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is being exposed to a traumatic experience where these are present:

(1) The person experienced or witnessed, or was confronted with an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury.

(2) The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

The traumatic events that are occurring in our communities were many African American men are watching their friends being shot in the street and dying in their arms, trying to figure out why they lived and their friends died. There is the also the constant reminder of the traumatic event such as seeing their survival wounds, confined to a wheelchair or having horrific nightmares.

A traumatic event is:

  • Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event including images, thoughts and perceptions,
  • Recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
  • Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring when awakened or intoxicated.
  • Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
  • Psychological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.


A person doesn’t have to experience all of the above to be given a diagnosis of PTSD, diagnosis is made if one or more symptoms are present.

Treatment for PTSD

(1) Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy-this is when the person is gradually exposes their thoughts, feelings that remind them of the traumatic event.

(2) Family Therapy- bringing the family into sessions so that everyone can be educated about the affects of PTSD while providing an environment for open communication and healing.

(3) Medication- is prescribed sometimes to help relieve the depression and anxiety symptoms but it’s not designed to treat PTSD.

The war zones of our communities are shattering dreams and forever changing lives, the number of African American men experiencing PTSD is staggering. If you or someone that you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms, please seek help from a mental health therapist in your area.


John G. Taylor, MACC, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Adjunct Professor at LaSalle University where he counsels individuals, couples and families. Mr. Taylor is a member of the Delaware Valley Association of Black Psychologist.