These apps, databases, and communities help address triggers for BIPOC individuals.

DW McKinney
June 26, 2020
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From the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the U.S. began to experience a mental health crisis. Depression, anxiety, and moral injury have increased among healthcare workers on the frontlines who are now expected to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the compounded effects of this stress. This is coupled with coronavirus’ effects on the general population’s mental health, creating traumas related to the fear of death, coronavirus infection, or unemployment.

In the midst of the pandemic, we are also inundated with endless news updates about police violence and misconduct and cell phone footage of modern-day lynchings. According to the Census Bureau, 41% of Black Americans and 34% of Asian Americans, who are already enduring COVID-related racial violence, expressed having anxiety and depression a week after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. The recurring revelation of Black death is traumatizing and triggering PTSD as well. 

Though similar triggers can cause PTSD in a variety of people, the path to healing can be varied. Julia Childs Heyl, a licensed social worker and trauma therapist working with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, stresses the importance of resilience when addressing trauma. “I personally define resiliency as the freedom to heal,” she says. And when it comes to resiliency and the Black community, Heyl asserts, “That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be the strong Black woman, the strong Black man, or the strong Black person. It simply means that you have the ability to heal, and as you do so, that only offers future generations the ability to do so, too.” 

Since the journey to finding resiliency while experiencing trauma looks different for everyone, we compiled these resources for you to use at any time when you’re ready to begin healing. As we continue to weather the pandemic alongside the battle against police brutality, these varied resources can offer specialized support as situations continue and develop.

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The National Center for PTSD Dissemination and Training Division created the COVID Coach mobile app in response to the increase in mental health needs during the pandemic. The in-app tools work to improve a user’s overall wellbeing by helping to manage stress related to loneliness, hopelessness, anger, and irritability. COVID Coach also provides a mood and anxiety tracker so you can identify the patterns of behavior that trigger your trauma symptoms. Mood trackers are important to understanding underlying mental health conditions and, when combined with professional care, can be used to provide a more accurate diagnosis.

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Heyl recommends Liberate, a meditation app designed by people of color, for people of color. The app’s website states that Liberate provides “resources for common cultural experiences, like internalized racism and micro-aggressions.” It’s this contextualized healing that addresses a specific need in non-white communities that isn’t met with other trauma resources. BIPOC teachers and therapists create Liberate’s content, which means that it is curated specifically with BIPOC cultures and experiences in mind. According to Heyl, meditation is important because “being able to connect with the mind and body and [taking time to pause] can do wonders for some of those symptoms of PTSD.”

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Created in 2011 by the Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD Coach is a free mobile and desktop app that provides information on PTSD, coping strategies, and effective treatments. The app provides tools to help avoid triggers and moments when you feel disconnected from reality or from others. You can personalize the app using your own photos and audio for the best experience when using the mindfulness exercises. PTSD Coach also provides tips on improving communication and relationship-building with yourself and family members.

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“Our world is more focused on the external,” says Sol Córdova, LPC, therapist and founder of Mind and Sol Therapy, which is why we need to turn inward and establish healthy mental habits. She suggests “sifting,” a mindfulness technique created by Dr. Dan Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. Siegel developed sifting as a way to help people process their emotions, but psychologists have adopted the technique to identify responses to trauma and associated triggers. SIFT stands for sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts. In the process of “sifting,” a person sits down and evaluates each of these elements and how they relate to what they’re experiencing in a particular moment. As Córdova explains, “[Sifting] then puts you in a much better space to assess what triggered [you].”

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Artists Danielle Baskin and Max Dawkins originally created QuarantineChat in response to sheltering-in-place and social distancing anxieties. This free app calls users once or twice a day and connects users with random people around the world. It’s useful for those who are experiencing general feelings of isolation and loneliness and just need someone to talk to during the pandemic. While your phone number is necessary to sign up, callers can only see your username. To ensure safety, all calls are encrypted, and no one has to share personal information over the phone. You just answer the phone call and talk about anything at any time.

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One method to offset potential intrusive thoughts or distressing memories is to use Moodfit. It is a mental health app that applies cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to help redirect unwanted and distorted thoughts. Unlike other apps, Moodfit pinpoints specific behaviors that impact your mood. For instance, by running “experiments,” users can determine how different variables (e.g. food, medication, sleep cycles) impact their mood. Then, using the results, the app offers tangible strategies to improve overall wellbeing. Moodfit also utilizes a “thought record,” which helps determine patterns in negative thinking and distressing memories, and then couples them with behaviors to help retrain your thinking.

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Wysa is an AI chat bot that helps users work out their feelings. Interfacing with an AI removes the subjective opinions that we usually experience in conversations with other people. This allows you to better determine exactly what you are experiencing and discover the specific type of help you need. Whether you need assistance coping with stress, depression, or anxiety, Wysa provides self-care exercises and connects users with therapists via text who can then provide additional support via live sessions. Wysa users have demonstrated a decline in depression symptoms, and its level of efficacy and care is why ORCHA, the world’s leading advisory organization in digital health, named it the best app in Health and Care in 2020.

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Heyl also recommends looking through the Open Path Psychotherapy Collective, a national directory of diverse therapists, to help you find a mental health practitioner. Cost-prohibitive measures prevent many people from seeking the treatment that they deserve; Open Path’s therapists, however, provide mental health services to middle- and low-income communities. Members pay a one-time, lifetime membership fee of $59, which is used for the non-profit’s operational costs, and then receive access to therapists who offer affordable sessions in person or online with sliding scale fees of $30 to $60, based on the member's financial needs.

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The South Asian Mental Health Initiative & Network (SAMHIN) is a non-profit created to meet the mental health needs of the South Asian American community. SAMHIN destigmatizes mental illness by providing educational resources on mental health, improving mental health literacy, and increasing access to associated care. It hosts a directory of South Asian providers nationwide as well as local programs and events in New Jersey, where SAMHIN was founded.

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Brandie Carlos created Therapy for Latinx in 2018 in response to a beloved friend who died by suicide. While searching for grief and mental health resources for herself and her community, Carlos became inspired by Therapy for Black Girls’ mission. Therapy for Latinx provides a directory of therapists and counselors, clinics, emergency mental health services, and other support resources. The recommended mental health practitioners either identify as Latinx or POC or have experience providing contextualized care to the Latinx community. Therapy for Latinx also offers access to additional resources to assist with parenting, relationship building, and professional development.