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I-TEAM: Images of police killings impact mental health of black youth

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 5:48 PM EDT
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Thursday, June 4, 2020

News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Bodycam video showing the horrific killing of George Floyd continues to spark outrage and protests across the country. Images of police killings are also traumatizing children.

Findings in a study done by the University of California show black children exposed to violent images on television and social media are suffering from increased levels of depression and PTSD.

More so recently, the Floyd's image will be forever burned into America’s memory.

Little Amari Wilson is too young to understand the full meaning behind the protests erupting across the country. She is also still too young to understand why her classmates didn’t want her to play with them last year.

“What did she say that you don’t like?” Liz Owens, I-TEAM reporter asked.

“The black stuff.”

“The black stuff?” Owens replied.

“Yeah, I didn’t like that," Amari said. “I’m still black.”

“She experienced some very bad racism even in pre-K," Dr. Dale Peebles, a child psychiatrist with Augusta University, said. “Since then, she has a complex about the color black. She doesn’t like the color black.”

He says his young black patients often express feeling overwhelmed with obstacles facing their race.

“These are topics that come up - police encounters dealing with structural, institutional. These are real things these kids are dealing with," Peebles said.

Real things that cause real mental health issues.

“A lot of anger, a lot of feeling the sense they aren’t being treated fairly -- the rules are different for them," Peebles said.

According to a study by the University of California: “police killings of unarmed citizens” is one “of the most pressing traumatic event(s) facing adolescents of color.”

The study found children exposed to violent images depicting their own race on TV or social media suffered from PTSD and depression.

“Some people are going to externalize they might act out, they may speak out in response to it," Peebles said. "For other people, it can be internal. It can chip away at self-worth. It can lead to internalizing that view 'I am less than.'”

“Amari, you are a beautiful, black girl and there is nothing wrong with being black," Amari's mother said.

“I know that, mom," Amari replied.

“Next time if she says that to, you tell her, that’s okay, black is beautiful. Okay? Black is beautiful.”

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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