The Black community has long suspected that PTSD caused by racial trauma is affecting its mental health and now there’s proof.
Thursday, a report published in The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, provided data to support those concerns.
A team of health researchers reviewed mental health survey data and a database of police shootings. Their analysis ultimately concluded that when police officers in the US kill unarmed Black people, it affects and damages the mental health of other Black Americans.
Conversely, the mental health of white Americans was not similarly affected, the researchers found. They also had no negative health effects associated with police killings of unarmed white Americans or armed Black Americans.
This highlights just how deeply rooted white privilege is, because on a subconscious level, even when violence happens in their proximity, white people still feel empowered to see themselves as safe individuals who don’t need to fear systemic oppression by those in authority.
Not Surprising, But Important
While the researchers recognize that their findings probably won’t surprise most people of color, they contend that their study was a substantive attempt to assess the measurable, if indirect, harms that police violence has inflicted on the broader psychological and emotional well-being of Black Americans.
“‘Having seen something so horrific and traumatic that happened to someone else, I’m reminded in a very painful and salient way that the deck might be stacked against me,’” Atheendar S. Venkataramani, one of the study’s authors, said of how the Black community perceives police brutality.
“It’s really about all the kinds of insidious ways that structural racism can make people sick.”
“Maybe this is the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Venkataramani, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, who also worked on the study.
“We have to find ways of de-escalating police response to black people,” said Mama Ayanna Mashama, an activist and organizer in Oakland, California. “It has to become policy. It has to become part of how it’s implemented from the top down. We have to have trauma-informed practices everywhere: in the schools, in families, in workplaces.”