Protests do not only cause violence and physical injuries – they can also have a long-lasting mental impact on those involved and those living in the surrounding community. This is precisely what has happened in response to the deaths of Michael Brown. Protests for civil rights began to spread like wildfire around the country following the Ferguson incident. When social movements like this involve violent protests, the mental consequences must be addressed, which is discussed in Jonathan Metzl’s Psychiatry After Ferguson.
It’s clear that posttraumatic stress is a significant problem when it comes to violent protests. Metzl writes, “Protesters, their families, and often their communities remain traumatized by the specter of unwarranted state violence, and by a system that seemingly condones it” (Metzl). In other words, although violence may have started from the community’s residents, other armed forces quickly intervened. “They don’t send psychiatrists, they don’t send counselors. They send more National Guard.” Although the aim of these troops is to maintain safety and organization, they simply elicit fear and more violence.
Furthermore, history shows we need un-biased mental health intervention when it comes to racial and civil rights issues. For example, during the civil rights movement, many African Americans were diagnosed with mental disorders for protesting because they were acting violently. Of course, years later we realized that diagnosing these individuals with mental illness such as schizophrenia only added to the oppression upon them.
Thankfully, psychologists today don’t view mental illness in minorities in this fashion. As long as social workers continue pushing aside their biases, they should be able to help these individuals.