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Managing Trauma During a Protest

The killing of George Floyd and other Black men has inspired many people to voice their outrage and show their support for change by participating in protests. You may be interested in participating in a protest yourself. But what if you are a survivor of trauma, who would likely be triggered by crowds of screaming people? It’s important to prepare yourself before joining a protest to ensure that you are emotionally and mentally ready to handle whatever comes your way.

Deciding If You Should Attend

Ask yourself if you are mentally healthy enough to go to a protest and take on all of the emotions that can come with it. The type of trauma you have experienced and the current symptoms you are having should be taken into account. For example, if you survived a school shooting, a protest may not be the best place to be as you will likely see a crowd of people screaming and running from something if it turns violent. It can be impossible to avoid everything that triggers you, but knowing what those triggers are can help you prepare coping strategies.

Preparing for a Protest

If you have a history of trauma, talk to your support system about what your possible reactions might be. Speak to them about this before going to the protest, and teach your friends what coping strategies work so they are prepared to help you. Let them know what triggers you, how you may react when triggered, and what some effective responses would be. You can also let your friends know how they can tell you need to leave and prepare for an exit strategy if need be.

Find Ways to Handle the Protest

Just because you decide to take part in a protest does not mean you have to be at the front where the action is happening. You can hold a sign or banner away from the crowd or stay towards the back. You can also play a quieter role like working at a first-aid station or handing out water and snacks. Remember that you have ways to cope if you get triggered, such as deep breathing and grounding techniques.

You can also distance yourself from the other protestors if needed. Do not feel like you are betraying the cause by leaving early if you are feeling overwhelmed. Preparing yourself for a protest in advance will help relieve your trauma symptoms.

Protesting and other loud, crowded events can be triggering for people who’ve experienced trauma in their lives. At The Guest House, our patients learn how to overcome trauma by taking advantage of the many therapeutic modalities we offer, such as individualized and group therapy, mindfulness, equine therapy, art therapy, somatic therapy, EMDR, DBT, CBT, and others. By sharing your story, we can help you heal. To learn more, call us today at (855) 483-7800.