College Students Exhibit Symptoms of PTSD After Watching Videos of Police Killings of Blacks

A new study by scholars at the Yale University School of Medicine and Rutgers University School of Public Health in Newark, New Jersey, finds that a majority of college students of color show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after watching social media videos of unarmed Black men being killed by police.

After surveying a large group of college students, 77 percent of whom were students of color, the researchers found that 90 percent of the students observed several acts of police violence on various social media platforms, with many reporting finding the videos hard to watch, while others shared anger, frustration, and fear over these videos. Some 75 percent of the students reported getting stopped by the police: 79 percent believed race was a factor and most felt high levels of anxiety during these encounters. Even the students who did not have direct interactions with the police were still fearful because they identified with victims they watched being killed by police and shared on social media.

“In communities of color, we are already mistrustful of law enforcement, watching police kill individuals who look like us or members of our families is traumatic,” said Felicia Campbell, the lead author, and lecturer at the Yale School of Medicine.

“Higher education is no longer immune to Black Lives Matter’s message and can’t ignore police brutality that affects students of color,” said Pamela Valera, an assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health and co-author of the study. “It impacts the mental health of these students.”

The full study, “The Only Thing New is the Cameras: A Study of U.S. College Students’ Perceptions of Police Violence on Social Media,” was published on the website of the Journal of Black Studies. It may be accessed here.


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