SSN Memo

Mental Health Impacts of Police Violence and Reassessing Policing as a Community Safety Strategy

Policy field

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University of Massachusetts Boston

Below is an excerpt from Mental Health Impacts of Police Violence and Reassessing Policing as a Community Safety Strategy written with Jean Semelfort Jr. for the Patterson Healing Collective.

It is well documented that policing, as a vehicle for state violence, exacts cascading psychological effects on our most vulnerable people. Policing, in the context of the United States, has its roots in anti-Black oppression and the violent ways police interact with communities adhere to this tradition. Rather than reinvesting in policing which has repeatedly demonstrated its inefficacy, radically leaning into models of community care and mental health support with demonstrated efficacy and community buy-in are essential. In our role as mental health professionals, a field that has historically upheld and optimized the very state surveillance and violence that killed Najee, we feel it necessary to provide additional support to the demands outlined by the Paterson Healing Collective.

Mental Health Implications

Victims of police violence experience increased rates of suicidality, depression, PTSD, and anxiety. These psychological consequences also result from standard police encounters or a family member having a police encounter, as well as increasing the likelihood of future police contact and thus additional mental health consequences. Unlike standard, interpersonal violence, state violence has widespread communal and racially traumatizing consequences. Studies show that police violence has “spillover” negative effects on mental health within communities, with these effects being more pronounced by those the most impacted. Further, each killing has the potential to and has consistently led to mass traumatization through the social media dissemination of death. As such, acknowledgment of and communal healing and restorative practices related to these events is essential.