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Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic

Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic

As we enter a new year, Mary’s Center is reflecting on the incredibly traumatic year we leave behind and the mental health needs of our community as we look forward to 2021.

Indeed, trauma is all around us – in the transgender woman enduring harassment at the grocery store, in the Black father who fears for his life when stopped by the police, in the immigrant woman in ICE custody forced to have a hysterectomy.

People experience trauma in response to extreme stress that overwhelms their ability to cope. Trauma is not distributed equally among us, and it can build up over time with devastating results.

Too many of our neighbors are traumatized again and again purely based on their identity, due to structural oppression in the forms of racism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, ableism, agism, and more. When people experience a traumatic event, or if they have loved ones or community members experience these events, lasting trauma can occur.

The people most likely to experience trauma often are the most vulnerable and are less likely to have access to the resources necessary for recovery, including financial stability, safe and permanent housing, quality education, food security, and accurate healthcare.

As a result, our communities are exhausted, discouraged, and spent physically, mentally, and emotionally with no apparent solution in sight. Eventually, this cumulative trauma takes its toll.

As research has shown, chronic stress and trauma have grave health consequences on our communities. Frequent stress responses can increase inflammation in the body, leading to cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. Also, childhood trauma often leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms like overeating, substance abuse, and risky sexual behaviors. These activities can put people at risk of depression, anxiety, cancer, heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening conditions.

Mary’s Center believes that healthcare is a human right. We stand firmly against the historic and current societal injustices that subjugate members of our community to any form of trauma.

As we start the new year, we re-commit ourselves to continuing to provide the high-quality services that address the sources and consequences of trauma our communities are confronting and to pursuing the systemic changes necessary to free our community from trauma and to heal existing wounds.