Black Mental Health Matters: Racial Slurs And Violence News Are Detrimental To Black People’s Mental Health

by Duke Magazine

A research body has documented the inimical effects of both interpersonal and structural racism. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that centuries of racism have had a profound and negative impact on the mental and physical health of people of color. However, some investigators at Columbia University revealed that being a subject of racism has propensity for traumatic stress linked to negative mental health outcomes, such as depression, anger and low self-esteem. 

In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, there is an addition of a new layer to an understanding of the pervasive health effects of racism. Lead author David Curtis of the University of Utah and his colleagues showed that widely publicized anti-Black violence negatively affects the mental health of many Black Americans even if they do not directly experience it.

This study was conducted with the first nationwide scientific assessment of media reports using 49 high-profile incidents that took place between 2013 and 2017. They included media reports of 38 police killings of Black individuals, as well as coverage of about nine legal decisions not to indict or convict officers involved in some of those killings.

Using weekly data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, the researchers assessed the mental health impacts on people during this period. In addition, Black respondents reported more poor mental health days during the time when two or more of these events happened in the country. Unfortunately, the legal stances on not prosecuting or convict the officers involved in the killings were most clearly associated with poor mental health days, Curtis says. This infractions really reflect Black people’s concern and dismay about what they see as the systemic injustice that follows a much publicized incident and the failure to hold anyone accountable more than their reaction to the initial wrong perpetrated by any single individual.

Those emotions also resonate with personal experiences in which racism is ever present. This racial slur is not only prevalent in the United States, but pervasive across the Western world. On 4th of June, 2021, Seid Visin, a 20-year-old football player, who played in the youth academies of Benevento and AC Milan, was found dead at his house in Campania, Italy. The Ethiopian player is believed to have been going through a journey of depression due to attacks of racial discrimination. Sadly, a note was left by Visin justifying his suicide: “Wherever I go, I feel the weight of people’s skeptical, disgusted and scared looks on me. I am not an immigrant … remember that everyone loved me.” He also wrote: “I’m ashamed to be black;” the AC Milan player also noted that several people were blaming him for finding a job while a lot of young Italians were unemployed. 

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