‘Trauma with helplessness’: The Black community and mental health in the aftermath of police-related deaths


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Across the nation on TV and social media, there are constant reminders of those who died as a result of police encounters: From George Floyd in Minnesota, to Tyshon Jones and Daniel Prude here in Rochester.

The constant bombardment of these images are played out daily, some say leading to trauma and stress in sections of society.

Local leaders in the Black community spoke with News 8 about the lack of mental health resources for some of those dealing with the trauma of these events, and what people can do to get access to help. 

Shani Wilson, a physician’s assistant and head of the Police Accountability Board, says for many in the Black community, seeing and dealing with these instances can be “extremely exhausting” emotionally, leading to forms of trauma.

“But also, trauma with helplessness,” says Wilson.

She says a number of people are having stress reactions— they’re angry, losing sleep, and sometimes, they just don’t feel safe on the streets. Wilson says resources for professional help are spread thin in the inner city. 

“There’s not enough. There are not enough resources,” she says. Wilson says funds need to be diverted to get mental health help in the neighborhoods that need it the most.

Melanie Funchess with Ubuntu Village Works LLC, says people want to talk to those who have had similar experiences. She says some professionals out there might not be the best choice. 

“Even if you’re a Black practitioner, everyone is trained in this same Euro-centric system. There is racism backed into the cookies of psychology,” she says.

Wilson says for outlets, the workplace isn’t really an area to talk, and social media can be an empty platform. Some of that anger can come out in demonstrations across the nation.

“Your reputation matters, right? Your job matters. Are people really being heard? Because if they did, they really wouldn’t be rioting,” says Wilson. “When people feel like they don’t have other options, they will turn to anger because it causes people to pay attention,” she says.

Funchess says if you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that you are not alone. Reach out to a friend or support group. 

“You can call 211 LifeLine, you can call different places in the community,” she says.

Wilson says to process your feelings to get them out. Journal writing is a great way to do that. “These are problems that are unfortunately not going away,” she says until changes can come.

Wilson says if you feel overwhelmed and you need to see a mental health specialist, reach out to your primary care physician first. They can then refer you to a specialist based on your specific needs. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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