Protecting Mental Health Amidst Neighborhood Violence

Today, our neighborhoods are often clouded by violence and crime, leaving behind stories that many don’t hear about. Every time we watch TV or scroll through our phones, we’re hit with news that adds to our stress and worry, especially in the Black community. It’s like we’re stuck in a tough story that just keeps going, and it’s really hard on our peace of mind. But even when things seem really tough, there’s still a way to feel better and find some calm. This article is here to help the our community navigate through these tough times, where systemic racism, discrimination, and socio-economic disparities all affect our everyday lives. This also affects opportunities, and experiences in many parts of the world.

The Impact of Violence and Crime on Mental Health

Seeing police violence against Black people on TV and the internet is very common in the community. This constant exposure makes many of us feel scared and worried all the time. It also makes it hard for to trust the police, adding to our stress and mental health problems.

The exposure to violence and crime goes beyond the immediate fear and danger it instills; its ripple effects can deeply affect the mental health and overall well-being of individuals and communities alike.  For example, gun violence affects everyone in the US, but Black communities face it much more. Black people are almost 2.4 times more likely to die from gun violence than white Americans. This shows the high rise of violence in our community.

According to research by Giffords, on average, over 12,400 Black people are killed by guns every year, and in 2021, this number reached a record high of 15,548 deaths. What’s concerning is that all types of gun violence are increasing among Black families. Between 2018 and 2021, gun-related murders went up by 61%. Deaths from gun suicides, accidental shootings, and police shootings are also on the rise during this period, increasing by 44%, 10%, and 13%, respectively.

For our community, these experiences are not isolated incidents but part of a broader narrative that intersects with systemic inequalities and historical trauma. The constant exposure to such distressing events, whether firsthand or through media consumption, can lead to a range of psychological impacts, including heightened anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other stress-related disorders.

8 Strategies to Help Protect Your Mental Health in Times of Neighborhood Violence

In a world that feels like it’s always shouting, finding your quiet corner can seem like a daunting task, especially when every alert on your phone might be the next piece of bad news. But here’s how we can try to shield our peace and keep our spirits lifted, even when the headlines are anything but uplifting.

  • Take Charge of Your Newsfeed

    Sometimes, it’s okay to press pause on your newsfeeds. Watching story after story can weigh heavy on your mind, so why not schedule “news-free” zones in your day? Make your mornings about you and maybe check in midday when you’re ready to face the world. You can decide on specific times to catch up on the news and choose sources that are known for their accuracy and balance. This way, you control the narrative, not the other way around. In addition, you should tailor your feeds. Your feed should feed your soul. Unfollow accounts that drain your energy, and let your social media be a space of inspiration, not desperation.

    • Find Strength in Numbers

    It is a good thing to lean on family and friends. It is a core part of our black heritage. Remember, it’s together that we’re strong. Connecting with those who uplift you can change everything. Sometimes, just talking about how you’re feeling can lift a weight off your shoulders. Your people get it, and they’re here for you. Join in or start something good.  Engaging in community gatherings or events highlights the positive aspects of our shared experiences, reminding us of the inherent good that exists within our neighborhoods. Such involvement fosters a sense of belonging and reinforces our connection to one another, serving as a powerful antidote to the isolation and negativity that can arise from neighborhood violence. The truth is that being part of something bigger can remind you of the good in the world.

    • Be Kind to Your Mind and Body

    Practicing self-care, and mindfulness isn’t selfish but a way to keep your mind and body healthy. It’s essential, and that’s a fact. It is about giving your mind a moment to breathe and your body the movement it craves. Mindfulness isn’t just a buzzword; it is about being fully present and engaged at the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. It involves paying close attention to your surroundings, but in control of your body, and your emotions. It allows you to cultivate a greater sense of calm and focus. It helps you take your mind off the chaos in the community. This practice can include meditation, breathing exercises, and other techniques to help center the mind and reduce stress. A few minutes of breath and reflection can make a difference. Additionally, you should also try to indulge in moving your body, for example dancing in your living room, stretching your muscles in your backyard, or taking a walk with your dog around your block. The truth is that movement shakes off the stress and brings back the joy your body craves.

    • Participate in Community Advocacy

    For many, getting involved in activism is more than just making a statement—it’s a powerful way to look after your mental health. When you take a stand for what you believe in, it can make you feel strong and give your life a deeper sense of meaning. But, it’s super important to remember that taking care of yourself is just as important as fighting for change. Know what you can handle, and don’t forget to take a break when you need it. Your efforts to make the world a better place shouldn’t wear you down. Keeping a good balance between fighting for what’s right and looking after yourself is key.

    • Engage in Positive Activities

    It is always good for your mind and body to embrace your passion, and engage in cultural and community activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Whether it’s painting, listening to your favorite album, or planting new seeds in your garden, let yourself get lost in the joy of doing something you love. It can act as a buffer against the negativity of the news cycle. You can also help out in carrying out activities like volunteering. There is something incredibly fulfilling about volunteering. It is not only about you making a difference, but it’s also about you connecting with the human spirit.

    • Setting Your Limits

    When things get tense out there, knowing where to draw the line is super important. Sometimes, this means deciding not to get into deep discussions, especially with folks who see things very differently or who turn chats into something stressful. It’s really about putting your peace of mind first. If a talk feels like it’s going south or a place just doesn’t feel right, it’s totally okay to step back. Your well-being is what matters most, so knowing when to say “I need a break from this” is a smart move.

    • Have a Safety Plan

    Amid neighborhood unrest or violence, having a well-thought-out safety plan isn’t just smart but essential. It acts as a safety net. This can include knowing safe routes, emergency contacts, and local resources for assistance. Create a list of emergency contacts, including family, friends, local authorities, and community resources. This list should be accessible to everyone in your household and saved in a way that it can be quickly reached. Also sharing your location on your phone with friends or family members in case of unseen emergencies. Also, be aware of the support available in your community. This could be local shelters, community centers offering assistance, or hotlines for immediate help. Knowing where to turn for support can provide a sense of security in turbulent times. Having an emergency kit ready can make a big difference. Include essentials like water, non-perishable food, first aid supplies, flashlights, and a battery-powered radio. Tailor your kit to meet the specific needs of your household, including medications, pet supplies, or important documents.

    • Seek Professional Help

    If you feel your emotional state is beyond your control. In that case, you should consider seeking help. A counselor or therapist can offer you tools and strategies that are tailor-made for you. You’re not alone in this. There are great resources and communities online that can offer support and advice. Sometimes, just knowing there’s someone else out there who understands can make all the difference.

    Balancing our intake of the world’s stories with the things that nourish our souls isn’t just beneficial; it’s necessary. So let’s not forget to carve out spaces of peace and moments of joy in our everyday lives. After all, it’s the small steps we take every day that keep us moving forward, together.

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    About the author

    Adeoluwa Agunlejika

    Adeoluwa is an accomplished professional blog writer with a deep passion for health and wellness. His expertise spans a comprehensive range of well-being topics, including nutrition, fitness, and mental health strategies. Outside of his writing endeavors, Adeoluwa is an avid football fan, often found enjoying matches during his leisure time.

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