McSilver Executive Director: Police Violence Impacts Mental Health

Preview frame of the televised segment

NEW YORK, April 21, 2021 — As the nation reacted to the guilty verdicts handed down in the trial of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, McSilver Institute Executive Director Dr. Michael A. Lindsey spoke to CBS News Correspondent Elaine Quijano about the mental health impact of the case and other instances of police violence on Black mental health.

Despite feeling “a sense of vindication that justice has been served,” Dr. Lindsey said what remains for Black people is, “this constant fear of law enforcement, thinking that something sinister or harmful might happen to you.” He cited research led by Jacob Bor published in 2018 that found among those living in the vicinity of a police killing of an unarmed black person, Blacks were likely to report poor mental health days related to the killing, while whites were not.

In young children and teens, “Acts of discrimination are related to anxiety and can lead to trauma and a sense of hopelessness for kids,” said Dr. Lindsey. The mental health impacts can contribute to academic struggles and even raise their risk of developing chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. “Those experiences weigh on them, both in terms of their behavioral health and their physical health, and have longterm consequences.”

Quijano asked Dr. Lindsey about recent data in several states pointing to rising suicide rates in BIPOC communities, but not white ones, during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said more research is needed to get to the bottom of why, but lack of access to mental health services and stigmas against seeking mental health treatment are likely contributors. In youth of color, over-suspensions and expulsions relative to white youth also affect their mental health.  “Behavior is penalized, instead of being treated. And certainly racial trauma plays a role as to why we are seeing these increasing rates,” he added.

See more of the interview in the video above or on

Photo of Dr. Michael A. Lindsey
Michael A. Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH
Dean of the Silver School of Social Work