Experiencing police brutality can be traumatic. One study published in 2020 found that survivors of police violence can experience trauma that’s distinct from that caused by other kinds of violence. Another found that the impact goes beyond just the survivors — young people in a community where police killed someone can experience negative outcomes, specifically among Black and Latinx students.
To address the mental health impacts of police violence, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri) is introducing a bill that would direct resources toward communities where police violence often happens. The Helping Families Heal Act would set aside $100 million for community and school based programs to help people who have experienced, witnessed, or been in proximity to police violence get mental health help. According to Bush’s office, the legislation is the first of its kind, as no funds currently exist specifically targeted toward mental health resources for victims of police violence.
Police disproportionately kill Black Americans, which doesn’t just impact the victims and their families, but can impact the entire community where violence happens. Research has shown that Black adults who were exposed to at least one police killing in the state where they live reported more days in which they’d rate their mental health as “not good.” In other words, when police kill Black people, it hurts the mental health of other Black people.
“We know that, nationally, Black people are … more likely to be killed by police than white people. There have only been five days in 2022 when police did not kill someone,” Rep. Bush told Teen Vogue. “The prevalence of this issue we know is felt far and wide. Thousands of families and loved ones are affected [when police kill someone] and surviving family members are left with the trauma. In the same way that we are investing in public health support, we need to be taking those steps for victims and survivors of police violence. It’s essential.”
The bill was written with help from Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, sparking national outcry against police brutality in Black and brown communities. Bush said McSpadden came to her with an idea to help support families of those who were killed by police, which eventually became the Helping Families Heal Act.
My son Michael never received due process of the law. I don’t know what justice looks like, but to have Congresswoman Bush to introduce the Mike Brown Bill [the Helping Families Heal Act], a bill my team and I have worked on for years, gives me hopeLezley McSpadden told Teen Vogue
Coverage from Teen Vogue