By Terrie Johnson | UAB Community Health & Human Services Intern
The release of Brittney Griner from Russian imprisonment garnered a great deal of attention from around the nation. Brittney Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA athlete that was detained at a Russian airport in 2022. Russian officials accused Griner of being in possession of CBD cartridges which is illegal in the country. However, 10 months after being sentenced to nine years in prison, she is back on America soil thanks to a highly controversial prison swap. As such, her homecoming is both joy-filled and packed with the reality of possible lifelong mental health implications.
CNN Reporters Salahieh and Yan shared Griner was held in an imprisonment camp for women that provided beds insufficient for a small child. Standing six feet nine inches tall, this was one component of her captivity that prevented her from getting sleep. Additionally, the camp forced women to sew as a form of intensive labor. However, Griner was too tall to sit at the tables and her hands were too large for the sewing machines. As a last resort, she was assigned to carrying the fabric used to create various garments. Most notably, Griner was forced to cut her signature locs which nearly reached her waistline. This was considered necessary since Griner could not dry her hair in the frigid temperatures of Russia and constantly battled the flu and pneumonia from exposed, wet hair. Along with these inconveniences, there were numerous aspects of the experience that would cause Griner to need the professional help of a therapist to strengthen her mental state.
As such, it is highly recommended that Griner and her loved ones that have been a part of the journey receive psychological counseling to address any emergent issues. Acknowledging being imprisoned in another country, serving as a political pawn for world leaders, being deemed unworthy for a prisoner swap, and being separated from family; it is imperative that Griner gets the supports she may need. Griner and her family may need to unpack the difficulties of being detained in another country, serving in a penal colony, and dealing with the anxiety of release. This can be achieved in individual counseling, group counseling, and trauma therapy. All parties can also join online support groups, perform community service, and connect with or advocate for Americans still in captivity.
Have you been impacted by a traumatic event? Was your family also impacted? Be encouraged and seek support for yourself and your family. For resources in your community, use the FindTreatment.gov to find the closest treatment location.
Kudryavtsev, Kirill. (2022). How the WNBA could have saved Brittney Griner. BAZAAR. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a40837022/wnba-could-have-saved-brittney-griner-pay-discrepancy-russia/
Salahieh, N. & Yan, H. (2022). Brittney Griner is back in the US and dunking again after almost 10 months detained in Russia. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/12/us/brittney-griner-us-arrival-monday/index.html
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). (2023). Helping Patients Cope with a Traumatic Event. https://www.cdc.gov/masstrauma/factsheets/professionals/coping_professional.pdf