Black Mental Health Matters: Healing From Inherited Family Trauma


Inherited family trauma is a cycle of trauma passed from one generation to another. It simply means that a traumatic event experienced by someone in a family lineage has influenced how the current generation behaves or responds to trauma.

Inherited trauma cuts so deep that it may affect someone who has never experienced the traumatic event. These traumatic events may range from the death of a loved one to the pain from a tragic event or an abusive relationship. Likely causes also include being members of a group that has suffered abuse or racial discrimination.

Source: Pexels

The multigenerational effect of slavery on Black people continues to be a trigger for trauma in the Black community. Years of experiencing violence, killings, and discrimination have affected black people negatively and exposed them to some sort of trauma.

Some Black parents tell their children to keep their hands out when they are out with people. They ask them to stay extra vigilant, especially in the presence of security officials. And they advise their children to put up a stoic appearance lest they are perceived as weak. They create these rules out of fear of their children experiencing racial attacks.

What many Black parents may not know is this, by constantly reminding their children that their skin color is good enough reason for them to be hurt or taken advantage of, they give room for a traumatic cycle to be created.

Source: Pexels

Monica Williams of the University of Connecticut researched the relationship between racial discrimination and trauma. It was revealed that out of 123 African-American students who participated, those who perceived discrimination showed more trauma symptoms than the others. They exhibited feelings of alienation and uncontrollable hyperarousal. They perceived others as dangerous and catastrophized about the future.

Black people subconsciously suffer from the psychological consequences of slavery and racism, and it gets passed down from generation to generation. To celebrate Black History Month, we are sharing practical ways Black people globally can break free and heal from generational trauma.

Four Ways to Heal From Inherited Family Trauma

Build a Support Network

The first step to solving a problem is sharing. We advise you to confide in family, friends, or people you trust when you feel mentally or emotionally distressed. Build your very own support system in the people you have in your circle.

You can also join support groups or a community of people who experience the emotions or symptoms as you. The National Center for PTSD supports the use of mental health support groups. They noted that these groups help people know they are not alone and make it easy for them to adopt skills for coping with trauma.

A support group will give you the platform to be open and honest about your struggles.

Look Inwards

Many people dealing with trauma are either unaware of their mental state or in denial. Introspection (i.e., looking inwards) is an excellent way to identify your trauma and discover its triggers. After you have grown aware of your emotions and mental health, you can make informed decisions on healing from your trauma.

Seek Therapy

Speaking to a professional therapist is a tested and trusted way of healing from trauma. Many therapists use integrative therapy to treat mental health issues like trauma.

Therapy would allow you to talk about your traumatic experiences with a mental health practitioner and get individualized expert solutions.

Source: Pexels

Create a Safe Space For Your Children

Ultimately, the goal is to break the cycle of inherited trauma, and that can start with you. But you also have to take responsibility for your children, making conscious efforts to protect them from situations or people that may cause them to suffer trauma.

Work on healing from your trauma so that you won’t project them onto your children. And make yourself a safe space they can come to when they need to speak comfortably about their emotions. Trust us when we say that trying to be better for your children will aid your healing process.


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