COVID-19 Pandemic, Police Violence and Black Americans

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with a police violence epidemic during the first half of 2020 to illuminate longstanding and complex disadvantages for Black Americans. Beyond health disparities, COVID-19 also exacerbated long-standing racial, social and economic disparities.  In the year 2020 alone, a number of police-involved killings of Black people like the tragic murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, dominated news cycles and social media while also inciting protests against police brutality and racism referred to as a national reckoning on systemic racism. This report explores the intersections of these factors  and their impacts on the mental health of Black Americans. Population surveys demonstrate a rise in adverse mental health conditions for Black Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Additionally, there is some evidence that adverse mental health conditions are directly and indirectly associated with police killings of Black Americans, and that they may vicariously experience trauma associated with these killings. With racism as a core element, the implications for Black Americans’ mental health and psychological well-being are substantial given racism is associated with psychological stress, depression and anxiety (Paradies et al., 2015). Recommendations are offered regarding efforts to meet current and post-pandemic mental health needs of Black Americans, guided by intentionality, accessibility, cultural responsiveness, and principles of healing and restoration.