Police brutality and mental health: Expert advice on coping with trauma

Five officers fired last week from the Memphis Police Department face murder and other charges in the death earlier this month of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

Ahead of the release of the police footage showing Nichols’ beating, the Memphis police chief described the video as inhumane. Nichols’ family compared the footage to the Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King.

Of course any time we see or even hear about police brutality, it can take a toll on our mental health. Channel 9′s Almiya White spoke to America Paredes of Mental Health America, who said many may have already be feeling the trauma even before the video was released.

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“It’s also important to think about the impact that it’s having right now, even before any body cam image has been released,” Paredes said. “We already are, in many ways, re-experiencing a lot of the issues that happened during 2020, during the murder of George Floyd and with that, reliving a lot of the trauma that exists and has continued to exist for us across our communities.”

As many braced for the release of the body camera footage, Kortni Alston, a happiness scholar, PhD. recommended doing a temperature check in regard to how you’re feeling.

“The police department has already informed the public about the weight of this video. So at this time, I would often share with individuals the importance of maybe thinking about in advance how you may begin to feel, your thoughts, and also making sure that you honor those thoughts,” she said.

Once this video is released -- Paredes said you’ll need to take additional steps to cope with the trauma.

“If you need to cry, which I would imagine a lot of people will feel that because watching anyone be brutalized is something that, if it doesn’t break your heart, it’d be troublesome to understand why,” she said.

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“Mental health screenings or mental health tests that you can take that will automatically provide you with some guidance on what it is that you may be experiencing,” she added.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings said he was bracing for the release of the video. He said he stands by the Memphis Police chief’s decision to fire the officers involved.

“I share in the anger and outrage that comes from this tragedy. There is always more to be done as we continue to improve police and community relationships. We must evolve and we must strive to be better,” Jennings said.

Jennings said he and the department were closely monitoring the events in Memphis.

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

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