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Mental health expert offers ways to handle anxiety, trauma while waiting on verdict in Chauvin trial

George Floyd Officer Trial
Posted at 5:26 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 18:54:18-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. --  — Waiting for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial can cause anxiety, trauma and can be triggering for people of color, specifically the Black community.

"There's a lot of fear because deep down, the minority community feels like Derek Chauvin may get off and that would be devastating, not just because it's George Floyd but because of the long history of brutality in our community," senior pastor at St. James United Methodist Church senior pastor Emanuel Cleaver III said Monday as jurors started deliberations.

Activists, organizations and pastors like Cleaver have been out rallying, protesting and calling for change since last year.

Cleaver said he took his daughter down to the Country Club Plaza protests last summer to peacefully protest.

It can be exhausting.

"There's so much invested that we feel like we're apart of it," Cleaver said. "The Floyd family wants justice but really it's justice for all of us."

Niwa Babayemi, a doctoral candidate in the counseling psychology program at the University of Kansas, says each person should be aware of how much psychological stress they can manage. Taking a break is the first place he'd start.

"It can be really difficult to avoid," Babayemi said. "It's really important that we take time to heal and to take time to process, which can mean purposely avoiding looking at something or reading something.

"We're still keeping abreast of what's happening, but we are managing what we take in just so we can take care of ourselves."

Babayemi said the western notion of individualism, that people should pull themselves up "by their own bootstraps," does not work for many communities.

"There has to be some sort of community initiative to help with the healing process," he said.

Next, try not to keep it all in - you don't have to go through this by yourself.

"I would say to find a community you can trust to be able to process further, Babayemi said. "By this, I mean being able to talk about things and express raw, unfiltered emotion. There's a different level of expression you can have with those that are like-minded, those within your community."

Cleaver said usually his congregation would gather in the church's sanctuary, but the pandemic made it impossible.

"Zoom is a helpful thing - and getting on call lines - help because we're actually able to have conversations with one another, encourage one another, pray with and for one another so it's definitely needed during times like this," Cleaver said.

Babayemi suggests two more techniques:

  • Think of a place or point in time where you felt truly happy and transport yourself back to that place in your mind when you feel overwhelmed. Take five to 10 minutes to think about what you saw, what you smelled, what you felt at that moment.
  • Intentional breathing. When you feel overwhelmed or worked up, practice taking deep breaths. Breathe in for five counts and breathe out for five breaths. Do this until you feel in control again.

Finally, Babyemi suggests finding a therapist. He said it's important to de-stigmatize going to a therapist, though he understands that many communities of color may not be trusting of therapists based on past experiences.

"Finding the right therapist is just as important because, unfortunately, there are a lot of therapists who have no idea of how to work with people of color, and they are doing more harm than good and further traumatizing our people," Babayemi said.

Finding a therapist of color or who has experience with communities of color can make all the difference.