Psychiatrists say viral police brutality videos can take toll on African American mental health

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are some of the latest victims of what some say amounts to police brutality and racial injustice and the videos and audio of these incidents have gone viral.

FOX13 talked with a psychiatrist who said these videos can have a major impact mentally and emotionally on everyone but in particular African Americans.

From a woman's accusations in Central Park to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, licensed psychiatrist Dr. Altha Stewart said these viral videos can take a toll on the mental health and well-being of African Americans.


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Stewart is the Senior Associate Dean for Community Health Engagement at UTHSC.

“I think the cumulative effect of those other incidents that impact psychologically and physically on our wellbeing is just devastating and it’s one more assault on the individual and the people that know and love that person,” she said.

And now, she says those emotions are intensifying as people continue coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus is infecting and killing minorities at higher rates too.

“I’ve heard through social media people saying, ‘why bother getting the test? If the virus doesn’t kill me the police will.’ And while we haven’t had those kind of issues with the police force here at this point, it is inconceivable that is not just watching, it’s impacting everyone who see it particularly black people,” she said.

Dr. Stewart says there are some coping measures people can use to help them.

“Everyone has a point where they are filled up with the anger, frustration, the stress and everything else so I like to encourage people to unpack it and take bits at a time,” said Stewart. “Don’t try to solve all of your concerns about the coronavirus while you’re still filled up with anger and frustrations about these murders that are coming in these different instances.”

Stewart says you shouldn’t take on this fight alone. She says make sure you have someone you can talk to about these emotions.

“Who can help you perhaps put in perspective the things you can and the things you can’t control about this and act on some things. Decide what you can do in your little world to make a difference,” she said.

Stewart told FOX13 for some people protesting was their outlet for releasing the stress and frustration from these latest videos. For other, she says it may be working on social justice policy reform.