142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

“I Stay On Point”: Contextual Understandings of Trauma and Hypervigilance among Young Black Men in Economically Disadvantaged Urban Contexts

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jocelyn Smith, PhD, LGMFT , Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Desmond Patton, PhD, MSW , School of Social Work, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Violence prematurely and disproportionately claims the lives of Black youth in America. Homicide is the leading cause of death for Black youth ages 10 – 24 (CDC, 2012). Black males residing in economically disadvantaged urban neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted. Annually, tens of thousands of Black males are hospitalized due to nonfatal, violence-related injuries, and thousands more are killed (CDC, 2012; Rich et al., 2009). Countless others witness violence in the neighborhoods where they live, learn, work, parent, and play. Recent research is beginning to examine the prevalence of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTS) among young, Black men (Corbin et al., 2013); however, our understandings of posttraumatic stress responses in this population remain limited. Using a modified grounded theory approach (LaRossa, 2005), in-depth interviews were conducted with young, Black men in Baltimore, MD (n = 40; ages 18-24) to understand the context, process, and meaning of PTS for this group. Across interviews, young men clearly connected place and health, referring to their city as “Bodymore, Murdaland” and consistently describing contexts of chronic, unpredictable lethal violence that could happen to anyone, at any place, at anytime. In response, young men remained “on point” or at a continuous, heightened state of arousal in an effort to quickly anticipate threats of violence in their environment and negotiate safety. Specifically, young men watched their surroundings, watched their backs, watched people, and kept a small circle. Developmental implications of chronic hypervigilance in response to persistent violence in neighborhoods where no absolute “post” traumatic period exists are discussed.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the posttraumatic stress response of hypervigilance as reported and observed in the daily lives of young, Black men exposed to violence in economically disadvantaged urban contexts. Discuss the developmental implications of chronic hypervigilance in response to persistent violence in neighborhoods where no absolute "post” traumatic period exists.

Keyword(s): Youth Violence, Urban Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have extensive research and clinical experience with my population of interest (African American males). I am a licensed mental health practitioner and earned my doctorate through research examining trauma, violence, and loss among young, Black men in urban contexts.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.