Growing numbers of Black people across the US are seeking therapy, mental health experts point to the trauma of police violence as the cause. According to a report by The New York Times, after the murder of George Floyd and repeated images of police violence, mental health help has been in high demand among Black Americans.
At the Creative Kuponya, a mental health practice founded by Jamil and Sara Stamschror-Lott in Minneapolis just a few minutes away from where George Floyd was killed, demand for therapy has “gone through the roof” within the last year.
“We’ve seen everything that the nation has seen from afar, from folks in civil unrest and devastation, despair,” Jamil Stamschror-Lott, who is Black, told The Times. A “great deal of pain and trauma” has remained in the community among residents, the couple said.
Research has documented hesitancy and stigma around mental health within the Black community, partly due to the exploitation Black people have experienced within the nation’s medical field, though mental health practitioners have noted a shift in attitudes about therapy among Black patients.
“I think people are starting to see therapy for exactly what it’s always been, which is more of an insight, building, more of an opportunity to see things in a different perspective, reframing,” Dr. Douglas Lewis, Jr., a clinical and forensic psychologist located in Decatur, Georgia told the outlet. “It’s something that everyone could benefit from, not just people who may be diagnosed with a severe persistent mental illness.”
Dr. Lewis also pointed out that repeated sharing of violent images has led to some Black people experiencing “shared trauma” that has contributed to anxiety.
“We’re being inundated with these things repeatedly, and what I think increases and compounds these issues is that Black Americans in the United States already experience difficulties that seem to be linked to race already in their daily lives,” he said.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Black youth said seeing body camera footage or cellphone video of deadly police encounters has negatively impacted their generation, who’ve come of age during the time of social media.
A 2018 study found that police killings damage the mental health of Black Americans, particularly those living in the same state as where the deadly encounter occurred. Last year, The Associated Press reported that images of police violence spurred racial trauma, which symptoms can be similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Steps to destigmatize therapy and increase resources to promote mental health awareness have been taken, but Dr. Lewis said more must be done to address racial trauma.
“We should all be working toward maintaining our mental health, particularly when we’re facing increased visibility of police aggression seemingly without any justice,” he said.
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