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Trauma expert says George Floyd case can still hurt your mental health

Clinical director for FGCU's Counseling Department says the emotional fallout continues even after the verdict
Posted at 10:15 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 22:15:20-04

ESTERO, Fla. — Many have said they can never "unsee" the agony of George Floyd calling for his mother and struggling to breathe as Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck.

And the Clinical Director for the FGCU Counseling Department says even a guilty verdict will not erase the lingering heaviness so many people still feel nearly a year later.

Yaro Garcia, Ph.D, says the case was deeply felt since the agony of George Floyd's final moments were recorded on video and seen again and again.

Below a lightly edited transcript of our conversation with her:

YARO GARCIA/FGCU TRAUMA SPECIALIST: Seeing it watching it, the repetition of knowing that this had happened - just the perception of knowing it had happened - and watching it on TV was enough to cause a lot of mental health symptoms in a lot of people, and some of those people, these symptoms ended up becoming traumatic. Many people all over the world, especially in the United States experienced a type of trauma that is experienced when the person is perceiving the experience.

WFTX: At this point in the case, with the verdict handed down, but not the sentence - the punishment is not put out there yet - what can people expect to feel with maybe our mental health response to watching this?

YARO GARCIA/FGCU TRAUMA SPECIALIST: The overall response is there's still going to be a lot of people experiencing sadness when it comes to this. And then you'll have populations that are going to experience sadness and fear at the same time. And then you'll have a group of people that will experience sadness and fear, and anger.

WFTX: Some people feel so overwhelmed, they want to turn away from it altogether, because even though we're experiencing this with other people, this can still feel lonely, right?

YARO GARCIA/FGCU TRAUMA SPECIALIST Absolutely, and again depending on your age, your race, your ethnicity, the neighborhood that you live in, and depending on your social-economic status. All of those things can influence how lonely you feel with this topic and what took place. And so, you're absolutely right. There is the point where some people have to - have gotten so overwhelmed - that they need to turn away from it. And I want to say that that is OK. When someone is feeling that overwhelmed and they need to disconnect from it. That is OK.

WFTX: Are there specific symptoms or telltale signs where you say you might need professional help here because you're not really coping in a way that you can manage?

YARO GARCIA/FGCU TRAUMA SPECIALIST Repeatedly feeling sadness or fear, when watching and reading. These are symptoms to pay attention to - that perhaps something more is going with you in regards to this.

WFTX: What's your feel with the collective community health given all that's happening at this point with this case?

YARO GARCIA/FGCU TRAUMA SPECIALIST: The overall response is still going to be - a lot of people are going to experience sadness when it comes to this.

WFTX: What's the simple advice you would give to someone who says, "It's so heavy, it's everywhere I turn. I just don't know what to do with all this?"

YARO GARCIA/FGCU TRAUMA SPECIALIST I would say if that person has already noticed a high sense of sadness, loneliness, anger, or fear, then seek professional help.