Police Violence - Mental Health

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  1. Impact on Black and BIPOC communities
    1. Mental health issues are both a cause and an effect of police killings within Black and other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities.
  2. Prevalent depictions of violence contribute to challenges
    1. The prevalence of this violence, as well as graphic descriptions, videos, and photos contribute to mental health challenges within BIPOC communities, especially among youth.
  3. Depict solutions and protective factors through storytelling
    1. Use storytelling to highlight solutions, including decreasing the incidents of police violence/killings in your content, limiting exposure to content related to police violence, and increasing protective factors within BIPOC communities. This includes support networks, mindfulness practices, and access to mental health care. 

Storytelling Tips

Portray a Range of Mental Health Experiences 
  • Portray the very real and concerning impact police violence can have across BIPOC communities. 
  • Some people may believe that only people who are directly impacted by violence experience trauma in the aftermath of that violence, when in reality simply hearing about or knowing about this type of violence can create trauma. 
Show Conversations About Mental Health and Help-Seeking
  • Depict conversations especially between parents and children to help open up dialogue in real life. 
  • The same racial groups and communities impacted most by police violence may have cultural norms that discourage talking openly about difficult feelings. 
Depict Effective, Realistic Help-Seeking and Treatment
  • Show characters and cast members accessing mental health services to encourage viewers to do the same. 
  • Some BIPOC communities may have negative opinions of mental health professionals or believe those treatment options are only for people experiencing severe mental health conditions. 
  • In reality, many mental health professionals are trained to help people cope with stressors like systemic racism and police violence. 
Highlight the Power of Coping Skills and Self-Care
  • Raise awareness of proven protective factors through your story.
  • Research shows that participation in religious and community organizations, limiting exposure to content about police violence, and mindfulness practices can help Black Americans cope with the impact of racism and violence. 
Provide Resources and Calls to Action

Need guidance on depicting the impact of police violence on mental health? Browse the expert directory >


The connection between police violence and mental health is multifaceted, especially for BIPOC communities. 

Racism can cause distress and mental health issues, especially in BIPOC youth. Mental health challenges increase the likelihood that someone will become a victim of police violence. Finally, videos, images, and descriptions of police killings can lead to mental health challenges when viewed by people of the same race as the victim. This creates a cycle that can cause significant mental health concerns in particular racial groups and communities. 

The most effective way to reduce this mental health impact is to reduce the prevalence and frequency of police killings. This could include widespread use of body cameras, heightened and consistent accountability by police officers involved in these killings, restrictions on restraint methods like chokeholds and bagging/hoods, and training on recognizing and responding to the signs of mental health conditions. 

BIPOC communities can reduce the mental health impact of content related to these killings by limiting exposure to the content, relying on community support including church/religious groups, help-seeking, and mindfulness activities. 

Facts & Stats

Police kill more than 300 Black Americans — at least a quarter of them unarmed — each year in the United States.
Individuals with untreated severe mental illness are involved in at least 1 in 4 — and as many as half — of all fatal police shootings.
Studies have found that police killings of unarmed African Americans have adverse effects on mental health among Black American adults who were not directly affected by the incident.
A recent study found that exposure to localized police violence and the shooting of unarmed suspects leads to persistent decreases in grade point average among African American and Hispanic high school students, as well as increased incidence of emotional disturbance, and lower rates of high school completion and college enrollment. 
Research has shown that the impact watching videos of police violence has on Black individuals is equivalent to the psychological effect of having a chronic medical condition like diabetes.

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