Experiences of Stress, Trauma, and Coping among Black Communities in Southwest Virginia


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Virginia Tech


In 2020, instances of anti-Black racism and racial injustice became increasingly prevalent and garnered widespread public attention. Simultaneously, the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to experiences of stress and elevated risk of exposure to maladaptive health outcomes. Black communities were disproportionately affected by these intersecting events, leaving them more vulnerable to increased stress and trauma, differential access to healthcare, and adverse mental health outcomes (Hooper et al., 2020; Schmitt et al., 2014; Vindegaard and Benros, 2020). In a sample of trauma-exposed Black adults residing in southwest Virginia, this mixed methods investigation examined the associations between psychopathology and exposure to COVID-19 and racial discrimination stressors, as well as between resilience/coping factors and psychological difficulties. Open-ended questions related to stressors, coping strategies, and mental health care perceptions and barriers were posed. Results indicated racial discrimination associated significantly with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, and shame symptoms, whereas pandemic-related stress associated only with PTSD symptoms. Afrocentric worldview emerged as the most salient resilience factor negatively associated with psychopathology, followed by social support and resilient coping. Common barriers to care included a dearth in Black providers, feasibility factors, and limited availability of services, though the majority of the sample expressed a belief in mental health services as helpful. Future implications of this work include implementation of accessible, community-based resources, support for increased racial-ethnic representation among mental health providers, and incorporation of culturally-appropriate and client-centered strategies in existing evidence-based treatments.



trauma, discrimination, resilience, Black Americans, rural