Pressley Calls on Biden-Harris Administration to Address Nation’s Trauma Crisis
BOSTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to address the nation’s growing trauma crisis. Rep. Pressley referenced the letter in a written tribute to residents of the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District, published yesterday by GBH, where she reflected on the collective pain experienced by communities in the district after a year of unprecedented health and economic crises and recurring instances of white supremacist violence and gun violence.
In her letter to President Biden, Rep. Pressley laid out a series of steps the administration should take to confront the far-reaching hurt plaguing our communities and our nation. The letter to President Biden can be viewed here.
The full text of the op-ed is below and can be viewed online here.
GBH Op-Ed: From This Year Of Hurt And Beyond, There Is Hope
By Rep. Ayanna Pressley
April 6, 2021
As we mark one year since the COVID-19 crisis began, a year that has been defined by loss, grief and isolation, there is hope on the horizon. Thanks to our dedicated essential healthcare workers, recently we surpassed 125 million vaccine shots administered to people across the country. Our nation may finally be turning a corner in our long and ongoing recovery from this deadly pandemic.
Since the onset of this crisis, we have grieved. Our personal and collective loss has been immense. Each death reported daily is so much more than a number on the TV screen. We have been robbed of our parents, siblings, cousins, teachers, nurses, aunties, grandpops. So many of us have had to say goodbye to loved ones through a screen. To keep each other safe we have had to forgo the comforts of hot meals left on doorsteps and pews packed with loved ones.
We have shouldered the burden of perpetual fear. Fear for our health. Fear of the loss of families and friends. Fear as the bills pile up. The fear that comes with not knowing if you will ever get your job back, if you will be able to build up your savings again or if your family will make it out of this pandemic.
As my family and I watched coverage of violent white supremacy, gun violence, and police brutality take precious Black lives, the lives of Asian Americans, and the immigrant community, I felt deep loss that we have not been able to convene safely with our community to grieve together and support each other. An arm on a shoulder, a bear hug, a hand held. We have pulled each other through as best we can from afar.
The days, weeks, and months of fear, stress, and anxiety are imprinted on our bodies. We are all living with the physical and mental consequences of this shared traumatic experience.
In the era of COVID-19, overdose deaths have accelerated, and over half of adults who have experienced job loss report symptoms of anxiety and depression brought on by the pandemic. Hospitals across the country have seen a rise in mental health-related emergency room visits among youth during the pandemic.
We’ve found moments of joy, no doubt. We’ve found life, strength, and reasons to celebrate, as the Massachusetts 7th always does. We are a resilient community. But we cannot forge ahead and just hope the memory of this painful year fades. It won’t fade. I know this because for the many of us who have been living with trauma for generations, there are wounds that don’t heal on their own.
The pain of a traumatic experience doesn’t just go away. That pain lives in our communities and in our physical bodies. We bring it to the work, our children bring it to school, and it impacts every aspect of our lives. The fact is that our communities are severely strained under the weight of personal and collective trauma. Today, we are all survivors. We have made it through an incredibly difficult year. And healing will take work, resources, care, and policy.
I have spoken many times about my personal experiences of trauma that predate the pandemic. I am on a personal and lifelong journey toward healing and I bring that lived experience to work with me as your Congresswoman. Throughout my career in public service, I have centered the voices of my constituents who see the magnitude of this crisis firsthand. As a Boston City Councilor, I convened the first-ever listening-only session on the trauma of community gun violence. The room overflowed with heartache and the line for the microphone indicated that so many felt so burdened by trauma yet had few outlets to share or process it. The pain I felt in that room years ago inspired me to partner with the late Congressman and former Oversight Committee Chairman, Elijah Cummings, to hold the first-ever series of congressional hearings dedicated to combatting childhood trauma.
Last week, I wrote to President Biden seeking his partnership and leadership in addressing our nation’s growing trauma crisis. I laid out a series of first steps he should take to confront it. Again, deep healing is going to require all of us, from the Oval Office to Codman Square to pitch in. I am deeply committed to working with my colleagues and the President to legislate justice, healing, and liberation – from this year of hurt and beyond. That is my life’s work. And I wanted President Biden to know about the brilliance and resilience in our community, but to also know how deep the pain and grief runs.
While the task of addressing this trauma crisis is significant, it is not insurmountable. Our response to it must be broad in scope and unrelenting. Prioritizing healing and trauma-informed policy is a commitment to restoring and healing the soul of our nation and our communities. Only when our policies and budgets are driven by compassion and center the experiences of those closest to the pain, will we finally live up to the promise of a government for the people, and by the people.
More than anything else, I want you to know — I see you. I love you. I will never stop fighting for you and your family. Our destinies are tied, so too is our collective liberation and healing. I carry your stories in my heart each day as I walk the halls of Congress. In the face of the unimaginable, we have each other. I close, in solidarity with you.
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