Being exposed to videos of police killings can lead to symptoms of PTSD: NPR
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Video footage of the moments leading up to the death of Tire Nichols, for which five Memphis police officers have been charged, should be released later Friday.
Monnica Williams, a clinical psychologist and expert on race-related trauma, said videos containing violence and death are incredibly stressful and should be viewed sparingly.
“Seeing things like this happen to other people in your community in general can have traumatic effects, especially if you are part of a stigmatized or minoritized group that often deals with trauma like this,” said Williams told NPR.
Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, was badly beaten after being arrested for reckless driving on January 7. He died in hospital three days later.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said the tapes, which include body camera, dash cam and other surveillance footage, will be released to the public by transparency after 7 p.m. ET on Friday. But she warned the incident was “heinous, reckless and inhumane”.
Here are some helpful reminders on how to cope.
Remember that you don’t have to watch the video to stay informed about the case.
Williams’ main advice is to not stare at the footage if you can.
“That’s really the message I want people to get: don’t look at them,” she said. “If you want to watch it, you should ask yourself, why do I want to watch this?”
She understands that some people may be required to see it, depending on their job or connection to the case, but for the vast majority of people, violent videos tend to do more harm than good.
Williams added that there are other ways to stay informed about the case without seeing videos or graphic images, which tend to have a stronger effect on the brain than just reading an article at this subject.
“These videos aren’t good for your mental health, and they don’t make us a better society,” Williams said.
Before the images are released, check with yourself
In anticipation of the video and the descriptions surrounding it, Williams urges people to pause to assess how much information they can handle.
“Anxious, stressed or nervous? These might be good signs that you want to relax and maybe you don’t need to watch it,” she said.
Williams also recommends digesting news and content in moderation based on how they feel.
“People can wait until they feel ready. They don’t have to now,” she said. “Or they may decide they only want a small amount of information about what happened.”
Signs of stress and trauma can appear immediately or within a few weeks
People can experience forms of post-traumatic stress disorder from watching distressing videos, Williams said. These symptoms include trouble sleeping, repeating images in your mind, or feeling jittery, restless, or out of sorts.
Sometimes these symptoms only appear later.
Williams pointed to a 2018 study in The Lancet on police killings and their impact on the mental health of black Americans. Research has shown that black people continue to be affected by a deadly encounter between police and an unarmed black person months after they first heard about it.
Feeling numb can also be a sign of trauma and should be taken as seriously as other symptoms, Williams added.
Lean on people you can trust and who can understand how you feel
One of the best ways to deal with this kind of trauma is to talk to other people.
“Have conversations with people who are getting it and who will be a source of support and comfort,” Williams said.
It’s also important to “rebalance your sense of balance,” taking time out of the office, taking a walk or driving and spending time away from the news cycle and social media, he said. she adds.