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Black Men Defy the Racist Stigma That Says Their Trauma is Their Own Fault

Black men between the ages of 18 and 30 years old who have experienced abuse, relatives’ drug addictions, being shot or having loved ones shot decided to turn their pain into support for others like them. The reason: those who end up in ERs or treatment facilities get asked, “What were you doing” as opposed to, “What happened to you”


Last week, participants graduated from the Community Health Worker Peer Project in Philadelphia, which is now in its third year (funded until 2020). The project is hosted by John Rich and Theodore Corbin, physicians and cofounders of the Drexel University Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice.

Anthony Miles, 27, one of the graduates of the group called “The Healers” who had been shot and had months of recovery from four broken neck bones, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We, as Black people, when things happen, we always get looked at like we’re the reason it happened — caregivers become numb. We’re just another Black kid in a hospital.”

The nine men spent nine weeks learning mental health first aid training, trauma-informed care and career readiness skills. They also spent the time discussing topics like toxic masculinity; how poverty, violence and racism can affect mental and physical well-being; and how to keep their patients motivated and able to navigate the behavioral health system, as well as how to identify their own symptoms.

Sweet Waltkeem Jenkins, 21, battled depression and suicidal thoughts throughout his training. He started in last year’s class, and now was standing in for instructors at times. His completion last week proved that healers could be healed.

African Americans of all ages are more likely to be victims of serious violent crime than non-Hispanic whites, making them more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And studies show Black men are particularly concerned about stigma and apprehensive about seeking help.

Community Health Worker Peer Programs are not unique. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funds programs around the country that use many training models and target different needs, but Philly’s program, sponsored by the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime, specifically targeted men in communities that were impacted by violence and who had experienced violent injury.

They can now be employed in community health centers, doctor’s offices, hospitals and other health service-related fields to help others through the process of healing.

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