This past year has been extremely difficult for everyone in the world. Feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and fear of many things. For the African American community, these feelings were added and experienced harder than ever. Repeated acts of police brutality and violence against Black people have ignited mass demonstrations across the country along with raising public concern. Movements such as Black Lives Matter, Believers Bail Out, and other grassroots organizations took to the streets to display their emotions of anger, frustration, and hopefulness for a change in the near future. The consistent descriptions and conversations of repeated traumatic events against the African American community have had both a significant and detrimental toll on the mental health and well-being of African American individuals and their families.
Incidents of violence and brutality against the African American community are associated with increased feelings of tension and anxiety among other mental health issues. Mental health research has shown a correlation between perceived racial discrimination and other negative effects on mental health as well. Since February is Black History Month, it is crucial to shine light and have these conversations now more than ever. The hardest and most uncomfortable topics to discuss are usually the ones that are the most important. The topic of police work and policing in general requires individuals to have a serious and in-depth discussion about it all, including the history and presence of policing. Because officers are trained to exert controlled aggression and dominance during situations that require a police presence, this behavior can easily become out of hand and cross the line, ending in injury to the people they are supposed to protect. High levels of emotional intensity and aggression are usually linked to high levels of testosterone, in both male and female police officers.
Black History Month does not have to start in order for people to open up about these uncomfortable conversations with each another. For when Black History Month ends, that doesn’t mean these conversations stop and end with it. Black History Month is always, and the first step is acknowledging that these situations happen and understand the ways it affects the people in our lives. Psychological scientists, as leaders in mental health care, “can play a vital role in promoting a positive relationship between law enforcement agencies and the Black community while providing high-quality treatment to those affected by police brutality” (American Psychiatric Association, 2018). Communal, familial, and interpersonal relations of all types need to come together now more than ever because of COVID-19 to provide emotional and all types of support and safe spaces towards loved ones.
American Psychiatric Association. (2018). Position statement on police brutality and black males. https://www.psychiatry.org/File%20Library/About-APA/Organization-Documents-Policies/Policies/Position-Police-Brutality-and-Black-Males.pdf
Steatean, E. (2020, August 28). Student Notebook: Police Brutality and Mental Health in the African American Community. Association for Psychological Science – APS. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/police-brutality-mental-health.
Testosterone May Dampen Police Recruits’ Emotional Control. Association for Psychological Science – APS. (2019, September 9). https://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/obsonline/testosterone-may-dampen-police-recruits-emotional-control.html.
Want to talk to someone who can help? If you would like to speak to a professional counselor or psychologist about this and are in the Chicagoland area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.
Written by: Abrea, 2021 Undergraduate Intern