PTSD in the Inner City Needs a Name That Respects Its Victims

No one should trivialize the post-traumatic stress disorder that affects people living in the inner city.

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Tiara Saunders and her son Myronne

NBC 12 Screenshot

Editor’s note: The Root has not been able to independently confirm that any researchers coined the term “hood disease.” The CBS station in San Francisco that originally reported this story has removed references to “hood disease” from its online report. It has been widely reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others that a trauma considered post-traumatic stress disorder occurs in residents of violence-prone neighborhoods, but this new terminology has not been verified.

Tiara Saunders would rather be homeless than go back to her apartment in the war-torn area of the Whitcomb Court housing projects in Richmond, Va.

Last week I wrote a news summary about the Virginia mother too afraid to return home after her 5-year-old son was shot during a Mother's Day cookout. Through tears, she told a news station that she had been staying with family since the shooting, going back home only once to retrieve what she and her children needed to survive. Housing authorities had denied her request to move to another location.

Saunders is trying to save her son Myronne.  She is fighting for a regular life for her son that doesn't include the sensibilities that come with the hood way of solving problems. What she wants for her boy isn't different from what any other mother wants, but her neighborhood is infected.

It was first reported by CBS in San Francisco that researchers had defined “hood disease” as a more complex form of post-traumatic stress disorder. Turns out that report may not be true. There may have been no such label. But what is true is that children from urban neighborhoods live in continual violence and therefore suffer from all of the symptoms that have been found in veterans once they return home from war. The big difference here is that the trauma is on a continuous loop because the violence is happening outside the front door.

Even people who live with the trauma every day may underestimate its effect.

No matter what it’s called, even jokingly, let’s not lose sight of this important point: Kids from the inner city are killing kids in the inner city at staggering rates, and those around the violence are suffering as much as, if not more than, those who have been directly affected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 30 percent of U.S. inner-city youths are affected by this form of PTSD, which makes it difficult for them to learn. Those who exhibit the disorder often live in virtual war zones, the CDC report says.

A reader of The Root noted in the comments section of our site that this form of PTSD should have been labelled CTSD, or “continuous traumatic stress disorder,” and I agree.

To understand CTSD, it works like this: It begins with an infected set of economics. Low-income jobs lead to low-income-areas. Poor housing usually means poor education. If left untreated, the infection takes root and attacks the sensibilities, altering perceptions. Guns, drugs and turf battles become larger-scale symptoms, as does living in a constant state of fear. Apologies are no longer effective in treatment. Once airborne and full-blown, CTSD spreads through neighborhoods, creating a sense of dread that is comparable only to living in a war zone.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM