Fear, sadness and grief linger after violence in Ferguson

Sep 3, 2014

In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, residents of Ferguson are still dealing with the emotional effects of the conflict.

Bianca Huff and her three-year-old son live in Canfield Green, the apartment complex where Michael Brown was shot and killed on August 9. Five days after Brown’s death, KBIA producer Bram Sable-Smith talked with Huff about how she has been helping her son understand everything that has happened.

“He’s seen the police before, so he was like ‘Did the police do this?’ and ‘How did the boy pass?’ and just different questions,” Huff said. “And he be like ‘So he gone?’ And I said ‘Yeah, he gone but he in a better place’ And he just say ‘Ok’ and keep going about the day. So as long as he don’t get too distraught, I just let him do that.”

Fortunately, there are people already on the ground in Ferguson helping people like Huff and her family cope with the recent tragedy in their community.

Dr. Marva Robinson is a clinical psychologist and the president of the St. Louis chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists. Members of the association have been visiting Ferguson almost every day since the shooting.

“Every age group and every demographic, even people who don't live in St. Louis, has been impacted by this,” Robinson said.

Robinson said it was important that her team respond quickly because the first few days after a crisis will determine how people cope with their stress, anxiety or depression.

“A person may say, 'Oh, I'm not stressed. I'm not “crazy” or having any issues,’ and that may be very true now but that may not be the case six months from now or a year from now,” Robinson said. “Sometimes stress comes back to haunt us or hit us at moments when we least expect. So we are out there providing the information, the education, the skills to help heal our community now as well as planning for long-term needs.”

The number of people the group serves varies daily, but Robinson estimated that each member will talk to around 20 or 30 people just by going door-to-door in the Canfield Green Apartments.

Although some people have expressed anger over the situation in Ferguson, Robinson said most community members she has talked with are feeling less violent emotions than what was portrayed during the week after Brown’s death.

“It's been more fear, sadness, frustration with feeling invisible, grief, you know. We forget that there's an entire community that's grieving the loss of a member of their community,” Robinson said.

And those who are having the hardest time dealing with their anxiety are children and parents. KBIA producer Bram Sable-Smith spoke with Miranda Jones, a counselor from a local service organization in Ferguson called Better Family Life, who shared one mother’s story.

“I had one young lady, she has two sons who are both African Americans and she's like ‘How do I talk to my kids about this?’” Jones said. “So she's dealing with her own depression and she says ‘How do I tell them that this won’t happen to them? How will I know that this won’t happen to them?’”

But some parents feel the conflict in Ferguson is too complicated for children to fully understand. Huff said she is trying to keep her three-year-old son’s life as normal as possible.

"He’ll say little things cause he heard everybody speaking about it," Huff said. "But I just try to talk about something positive and tell him he don’t have to worry about nothing like that, just trying to keep him worried about kid things."