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The Trauma Of George Floyd's Killing Has Been Renewed With Start Of Chauvin Trial

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The trial of Derek Chauvin began today. He is the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd. We heard opening statements and the first witnesses. For many people, especially Black residents in Minneapolis, revisiting this event has been traumatizing. BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya is a clinical psychologist in Minneapolis, and she joins us now.

Welcome.

BRAVADA GARRETT-AKINSANYA: Thank you so much for inviting me. I'm pleased to be here. Thank you.

CHANG: Well, we're so pleased to have you here. I'm curious. Are you seeing the effects of this trial in your day-to-day work right now? Like, what kinds of anxieties, what kinds of stressors are you hearing from people in your community right now?

GARRETT-AKINSANYA: I definitely am hearing a great deal about it. There's a lot of apprehension and what I refer to as anticipatory anxiety and anticipatory grief. People are just anxious, anxiously awaiting for the other shoe to drop. There's a lot of hypervigilance and just angst and fear and, you know, sadness and worry in the community, and it's showing up in all kinds of ways from the children I see on up to the geriatric patients to whom I provide services.

CHANG: And what exactly are the signs of trauma so that people can recognize if they're feeling it?

GARRETT-AKINSANYA: The signs of trauma are multiple, but one of them is avoiding the location where the trauma took place. Another sign is reexperiencing and having flashbacks about the trauma. Another sign, of course, is stress, where you're shaking, where you're having trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating. And more importantly, you have an impending sense of doom, like something bad is going to happen. So when we have those signs and symptoms of trauma exposure, if it goes on for more than a week or two, that's a cue that you need to get help with it.

CHANG: Well, let's talk about why revisiting these events has been so traumatic for people. Can you explain what is happening?

GARRETT-AKINSANYA: For us as a Black community especially, we are so used to being traumatized, and we are so used to having microaggressive experiences that happen to us on a daily basis. So we are kind of normalizing trauma. I want people to know that they have the right to get support, and that right includes seeing people like psychotherapists or psychologists like me. In our community, talking about seeking help often translates into feeling like we're turning our back on our faith and that we should believe God to take us through everything, and we don't need psychologists or mental health providers to help us. People don't understand that mental health providers teach skills in looking at the world in a way that serves you and doesn't break you down.

CHANG: Absolutely. But may I ask you, how do you convince people who are reluctant to try out therapy to try therapy? - because for a lot of people, there still is some stigma attached to therapy. For others, therapy just isn't affordable. So how do you make therapy a realistic choice for those people?

GARRETT-AKINSANYA: Well, first of all, I make it a realistic choice by public education and opportunities like this to explain to people what therapy really is, that it's around learning skills and living. And the other thing I also like to tell them is that some of the stuff we grew up with is organized in a way that helps us and serves our communities' existence. So I tell my community that it's OK, that we have a right to wellness, that the pain and suffering that we have endured for centuries is the price to finally have freedom and liberation and peace. That price has been paid, and they have to claim their right to be well.

CHANG: BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya is a clinical psychologist in Minneapolis.

Thank you so much for being part of our show today.

GARRETT-AKINSANYA: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.