Ask a Black therapist: 5 tips to support Black mental health during the Derek Chauvin trial

The evidence surrounding George Floyd's death is distressing for African Americans—and especially excruciating for Black men.  There are a number of therapists, organizations and resources providing support.

(CNN)"There is a difference between being informed and getting retraumatized."

That's what clinical therapist Paul Bashea Williams tells himself and his clients as they struggle with the distressing images now resurfacing during the Derek Chauvin trial.
The proceeding churns up a persistent trauma. The replay of George Floyd's final moments can feel inescapable, leaving many feeling raw, vulnerable and without relief. There are places you can turn for immediate help.
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline —1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness — 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
While the evidence surrounding Floyd's death is distressing for most audiences, it is overwhelming for African Americans — and especially excruciating for Black men who see their very humanity reflected in him.
"Sometimes you are visualizing you," says Williams, lead clinician and owner of Hearts in Mind Counseling in Prince George's County and Montgomery County in Maryland. 90 percent of his clients identify as Black.
In the immediate aftermath of George Floyd's murder, and now during Chauvin's trial, African Americans are fighting harder than ever to protect and prioritize their mental health.
And Black men and women are exhausted.

Caught between hope and hopelessness

According to Williams, his clients are continuously cycling through feelings of hope and hopelessness. While many hope for justice, they are also bracing for disappointment, one that feels familiar when unarmed Black men and women are killed by police officers.
Williams also points out the secondary trauma African Americans experience from the images and video surrounding Floyd's death.
"It is the emotional and psychological effects experienced through vicarious exposure to the details of traumatic experiences of others," he says.
Among the private concerns Black men have shared with Williams are "feeling anxiety around leaving the house" and "depression over not having control over one's life."
As the trial continues, Williams offers five tips to individualize care during the trial.

Tip 1: Create safeguards around watching the trial

"I want to give permission to people to not watch," Williams says about the trial.
And as the nonstop coverage rolls across TV, phones and computers, he suggests setting limits. As a Black man, husband and father, the therapist practices the same care he recommends to his clients. "I had to set up boundaries to be able to show up for my son, my dad, my wife — my clients especially, who came in and were struggling."
Williams says some struggled with not watching news coverage when Floyd was killed. Some felt as if they were letting the Black community down and not standing in solidarity.
Paul Bashea Williams LSCW, LICSW, is the owner and lead clinician of Hearts in Mind Counseling based in Prince George's County and Montgomery County in Maryland.