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  The Minority/ Black Health Blog  

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Confirmed: Police Brutality Against Unarmed Blacks is Damaging the Community's Mental Health

African American protesting against police brutality

With the increasing rate of unarmed African Americans being killed at the hands of police, the incidents of depression, stress, and other mental health issues have been increasing as well, a study by The Lancet Journal has discovered. The aftermath of such brutality has been found damaging the mental health of many in the Black community -- even those who are not directly related to those who lost their lives.
Last month, Botham Jean was fatally shot by Officer Amber Guyger after she entered an apartment she thought was hers, she said. Few days prior to that, 15-year-old Jordan Edwards who was leaving a party with friends was killed by Officer Roy Oliver. And last June, 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr. died after being shot in the back by Officer Michael Rosfeld for fleeing a car that had been stopped by police. They are just some of the hundreds of Black unarmed men who were killed by police.

Two days after Rose was killed, Boston University's School of Health and the University of Pennsylvania released a study that found the high rate of unarmed African Americans being killed by the police has resulted to an increased rate of depression, stress, and other mental health problems among Blacks. The study noted that it affects the mental health even of those African Americans who have no direct connection to the people who were killed.

The research concluded that the use of deadly force by police against an unarmed black American "carries with it the weight of historical injustices and current disparities in the use of state violence against black Americans."

The findings from previous studies also suggest the same. A study conducted by Berkeley law professor Franklin Zimring in 2015 analyzed 1,100 killings by police found that death rates for African Americans as well as Native Americans were disproportionately higher. They also appear to have some of the highest rates of mental health issues such as serious psychological distress.

Moreover, the public protests and demands to hold every police officer who killed an unarmed black man accountable are often the direct aftermath of police brutality. But the deeper effects include trauma and depression even just by knowing such incidents.

Boston University and University of Pennsylvania researchers concluded that their findings support "recent calls to treat police killings as a public health issue." It includes not just indicting the police officer who fired the shots, but overhauling the system of recruiting, hiring, training and evaluating police officers.

Without incorporating public health perspective into policing and police brutality against Blacks continue, it could result to "heightened perceptions of threat and vulnerability, lack of fairness, lower social status, lower beliefs about one's own worth, activation of prior traumas, and identification with the deceased," the study says.

On the other hand, many believe that it would be very beneficial if police officers would understand the effects of trauma and violence on behaviors and how biases directly affect actions.
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