Trauma triggered by police shootings can take its toll on your mental health

Christie Ileto Image
Friday, October 30, 2020
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The trauma triggered by watching police shootings over and over again can take its toll on your mental health.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Walter Wallace Jr.'s killing at the hands of police played out in real life for those at 61st and Locust, and online for millions of eyes.

The uncensored depiction of Wallace's killing this week triggered trauma but didn't stop people from watching on social media.

"Sometimes watching these videos allows us to relate, engage and feel the pain, but then sometimes it's another wound we afflict on ourselves," said Shamm Petros, partner and director of learning & evaluation with the Lion's Story.

SEE ALSO: Walter Wallace Jr.'s family does not want Philadelphia officers to face murder charges, attorney says

Petros works with an organization that has partnered with Penn, leading the charge on racial conflict resolution.

"The affliction, the plight of Black, brown and indigenous people is not new to us," she said.

This isn't the first time videos like Wallace's shooting death or George Floyd, Ahmad Aubrey and Eric Garner have gone viral.

"You can become anxious, dejected, despondent," said Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Chad Lassiter says those forced to compartmentalize the most are the families.

RAW VIDEO: Video shows officers yelling 'put the knife down' before fatal shooting

"Families are thrust into the spotlight. They don't have an opportunity to go through the various cycles of grief because we're saying come join us in this march, join us in this statement."

"You can't heal when you're constantly faced with images of your people dying," said post-doctoral University of Pennsylvania fellow, Nkemka Aniywo.

And while the videos can present information in the moment, mental health experts recommend knowing when to limit your dosage of that type of content.

"We have to be cognizant of the psychological impact of what it means to see that, and be cautious of how much do I consume," she said.