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In the aftermath of Tyre Nichols’ killing: How to take care of your mental health while staying informed


As the video of the brutal police beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police continues to circulate online, many are feeling a range of emotions, from anger and sadness to frustration and fear. The tragic incident has sparked widespread outrage and calls for justice, with protests breaking out in major cities across America in the aftermath of bodycam and surveillance footage being released to the public by the Memphis Police Department.

While it is important to stay informed, and engage with issues of police brutality and racial injustice, it is also crucial to take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from the emotional stress that can come from consuming too much news and social media.

Nichols, 29, was brutally beaten by five Memphis police officers during a traffic stop on Jan. 7(Opens in a new window), just minutes away from his home where he stayed with his mother and step-father. Nichols would pass away three days later after succumbing to his injuries. The officers responsible for Nichols’ death have been fired and indicted on charges that include second-degree murder, kidnapping, and assault.(Opens in a new window)

Video from the bodycam footage taken by Memphis police on Jan. 29 may seem unavoidable online, and the surrounding discussion both justifying and condemning the actions of the police officers may be ubiquitous as well. While some may feel duty-bound to be updated about the protests and discourse online revolving around Nichols’ death, psychologists say that the best approach for one’s mental health might involve setting limits and possibly just…not watching the video at all.

Social media limits

To be quite honest, the discussion about Nichols’ death is enough to make one physically sick. Whether due to gut-wrenching testimonials by those closest to Nichols, a loving father of a 4-year-old boy(Opens in a new window), or hot takes from conservative news pundits victim-blaming a dead man for his own murder, this story is making Twitter and other social media apps really toxic right now.

In an article for Healthline(Opens in a new window), E. Alison Holman, a professor at the Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing at the University of California, Irvine, says that “being too wrapped up in bad news can be problematic because it’s associated with a greater chance of reporting acute stress symptoms.”

To keep balance in one’s social media scrolling, Holman recommends limiting news consumption to once or twice a day from reputable sources or turning off the news altogether. Consider setting a specific time each day to check for updates, rather than constantly scrolling through your feeds. Sites like Twitter and Instagram allow users to mute or unfollow accounts that are causing them stress. Better yet, you can mute posts by keywords so nothing can slip past the filter.

Tonya C. Hansel, a doctorate of social work program director at Tulane University agrees with Holman in the Healthline article, suggesting that one should avoid consuming news before bed as it can cause anxiety, thus giving rise to sleep problems that will make your stress and anxiety even worse. Hansel also recommends avoiding news with sensational headlines and being diligent with headlines to find news that’s important to read rather than just consuming any and everything you can find.

Avoiding racial trauma

For Black Americans, the killing of Nichols is a tragic reminder of a systemic police brutality problem in the country. As the footage continues to circulate online, experts urge Black Americans to take care of their emotional well-being in the wake of the tragedy and the ongoing protests around the nation. More specifically that it’s okay to not watch the video at all.

Dr. Monnica Williams, a clinical psychologist and expert on racial trauma, law enforcement, and community trauma, spoke with CNN(Opens in a new window) stating that the Black community is outraged enough without having to sear graphic images into their minds.

“We can read a description of the events. We live in a violent culture, and serving around these clips as entertainment only really makes us more violent,” Williams told CNN. “You have to think about the toll that this takes on your humanity. I really discourage it, because I don’t think that this really gives dignity to the person who is deceased.”

Yolo Akili Robinson, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Black Emotional And Mental Health Collective, spoke with Mashable in 2021 in the aftermath of the Daunte Wright police killing, of the restless nights and anger he observed in his friends and colleagues. “Police killings create a culture of shame, trauma and anxiety,” Robinson said.

He added that “murals and memorials dedicated to those victims become an everyday reminder that those deaths ‘were never deemed worthy of justice.'”

The American Psychological Association states(Opens in a new window) that the “experiences of racism against people of color build on each other and over time, can chip away at one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual resources.” As Mashable’s Rebecca Ruiz writes, “The concept of racial trauma, or race-based stress, is decades old but has emerged as a mainstream idea […] since George Floyd’s death.” Symptoms are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder(Opens in a new window), causing many to suffer from hyper-vigilance, increased heart rate, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, disrupted sleep, and irritable bowel syndrome.

It’s important to note, that Black Americans (myself included) have the right to feel the full range of emotions in response to racial trauma and police brutality, and you should not be made to feel guilty or ashamed for feeling the way you do.

“To learn about and name racial trauma at this moment in American history is to understand that countless people of color have long been denied their basic dignity and human rights and have paid, at the very least, with their mental health,” Ruiz writes.

And while the solution to combatting racial trauma is a complex and arduous task, there are things we can do in the here and now, to protect ourselves as we deal with the fallout of the death of another innocent Black man. It can start in small ways in your own personal life by limiting social media and news consumption as stated earlier or by reaching out for support from a loved one or a licensed professional.

It’s important that we take the time to process our emotions, support our own emotional health, and come together as a community to support each other. As of this writing, the family of Tyre Nichols has created a GoFundMe(Opens in a new window) to raise funds for his memorial services. Additionally, the funds provide mental health assistance to the Nichols family as they deal with the aftermath of losing their loved one. As of this writing, the fundraiser has raised surpassed its original $500,000 goal and donations continue to pour in.

If you’re feeling suicidal or experiencing a mental health crisis, please talk to somebody. You can reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988; the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860; or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. Text “START” to Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI, Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. ET, or email [email protected]. If you don’t like the phone, consider using the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Chat at crisischat.org(Opens in a new window). Here is a list of international resources(Opens in a new window).


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