Graduate researchers in psychology seek to understand trauma, isolation, and resilience among Black Americans in Southwest Virginia.
The grueling and combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police greatly strained Black Americans across the country in 2020, going into 2021, and to this day. Psychologically speaking, the negative impact is hard to fathom, even by experts.
That includes right here in the rural Appalachia mountains, where African American households and communities are often overlooked in research. A group of graduate students in the Virginia Tech Department of Psychology seek to remedy that by gaining more knowledge about the unique and challenging experiences of stress, trauma, and resilience with Black and African American communities in Southwest Virginia.
The topic is the dissertation of Janey Dike, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate studying under Russell Jones, a renowned expert in trauma psychology in both natural and technological disasters. Working alongside Dike is Brianna George, a fourth-year doctoral student who studies trauma and healing in Black communities and is also working in Jones’ Stress and Coping Lab, also like the department, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science.
“Through other lab endeavors that focused on Black Appalachians, our lab has also learned of and has been struck by the unique experiences of Black Appalachians, which are not often openly advertised,” Dike and George said. “For example, we spoke with Black members of our community and found that many individuals described living in Appalachia as an isolating experience. Given these striking events and observations, our lab found it important to research the ways that Black Appalachians were processing and working through both COVID and racial injustice.”
According to Dike, “several people discussed a lack of trust in the health care system and a lack of providers of color, so it will be interesting to do the full analysis.” She also found that many participants reported receiving a good deal of “informal mental health support” from their communities, such as families and churches.
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