NEW YORK, January 13, 2021 — The mental health trauma created by police brutality can have wide-ranging and lasting effects on the mental health of Black people, McSilver Institute Executive Director Dr. Michael A. Lindsey told actress and activist Taraji P. Henson during her Facebook Watch show, Peace of Mind with Taraji. Titled, “Just Watching Police Brutality Can Harm Your Mental Health,” today’s episode followed interviews with comedian Jay Pharoah and Aumarie Johnson about their own encounters with police.
“The effect of police brutality — trauma — can be so devastating to your body, to your ability to function and have love relationships. In our community we shun going to therapy. We’ve got to get connected to those mental health supports when we need them,” he told Henson and co-host Tracie Jade Jenkins, who is Executive Director of the mental health organization that Henson founded, the Boris L. Henson Foundation.
“I’ve never had a real physical encounter with the police, but I’ve seen it happen over and over again on social media, and it affects me,” said Henson. “Just today we were talking about it [on the show] and I had heart palpitations — my heart— and I had to leave the room. Because, I know if anytime I see a cop, if I have a chance, I’ll turn down a different street. I’ve never had anything happen to me, but this trauma, from watching it over and over and over— I’m Black!—is that common?”
“We call that vicarious trauma,” replied Dr. Lindsey. “So, if you see on the media and on the news, George Floyd, how could anyone watch that and not feel traumatized? I went to bed after watching George Floyd, having nightmares about that. It does have an impact on the Black community in terms of their mental health.” Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020, and viral videos of his brutal slaying by officers who kneeled on his neck and back helped spark an international protest movement against racial injustice and police brutality.
Research has shown that men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by law enforcement over the course of their lives, Dr. Lindsey added. A study by The Counted project found that that if you’re a Black male between the age of 15 and 30, you’re nine times more likely to die at the hands of law-enforcement than any other race or ethnic group.
Watch the full episode in the video above or here on Facebook. The show was recorded in accordance with safe testing and social distancing protocols.