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Professor sheds light on 'traumatic nature' of experiencing, witnessing racist acts

Sparking an uncomfortable conversation, UNF Associate Professor Dr. Richmond Wynn sheds light on issues of racism and its effects.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Racism is a topic many people tend to shy away from talking about. It makes people uncomfortable. 

Dr. Richmond Wynn, Director of the Mental Health Counseling Center at the University of North Florida, pulled back the curtain during a candid REfresh conversation on Generation W’s weekly online show. He also offered coping advice in times of anxiety and conflict amid the pandemic and more visible acts of racism.

“All of us need to acknowledge the traumatic nature of both experiencing racist acts and witnessing it,” Wynn said while explaining the feelings many African American men, women and children battle. “The second guessing, feeling lonely, disconnected, the hypervigilance and constantly being on-guard. Imagine constantly operating at a heightened sense of awareness. That in and of itself is taxing.”

He says those feelings could lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and eating disorders.

“There's decreased trust,” Wynn said. “We're not sure who to trust. and so everybody becomes suspect and certainly people we think look like perpetrators and the promoters of racism.”

He emphasized the importance of understanding your feelings during these trying times and offered this advice, “Take care of our mental health hygiene.”

  • Brush your heart
  • Floss your brain
  • Don’t believe everything you think
  • Take the mask off your ears
  • Examine your bias

"If you have fear of people who don't look like you or you get anxious around people who don't look like you or are different from you that's an opportunity to look more closely at what's in your heart,” said Wynn.

Leading up to Generation W's virtual women's leadership experience on Sept. 11, First Coast News will share snapshots of conversations during the Refresh weekly online show. It’s every Wednesday on Generation W’s Facebook page.

Credit: Gen W