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Dealing with the mental impact of watching the Tyre Nichols video

Posted at 8:19 AM, Jan 31, 2023

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The choice to hit play and watch the beating of Tyre Nichols has been a hard one for many people. Others don't feel like they have a choice in the matter and they need to watch the video. Regardless of the choice they make, mental health professionals say the trauma associated is very real.

For anti-violence advocate Devine Carama, three days have not been long enough to process what happened to the 29-year-old Black man.

"Not even, like, normal sad, like almost like kind of like depressed because it's — you know, that something like this is going to happen again," said Carama.

But like many people, Carama still had to get up on Monday, go to the office and work.

“You feel like you walk into work, and you're forced to act like everything's OK when, in reality, it's not, you know, you were, but you just got to continue pushing forward and sometimes you just like, I shouldn't just have to keep pushing forward," said Carama.

Dr. Lauren Downey, clinical director of the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center in Kentucky, says there has not been a lot of time for people to process because people might be experiencing various forms of trauma like historical, generational, racial and vicarious trauma.

“To bring into context vicarious trauma, that's a form of trauma where the person individually doesn't have to go through the actual traumatic event, but learning about it, somebody telling you about it, a sound, a smell, a sight. All of those things can lead to vicarious trauma," explained Downey.

It’s why Downey says everyone needs to question whether viewing the video is the best choice for them personally.

"That question really involves, you know, what are people's individual goals for themselves emotionally and mentally? Obviously, we all want to be mentally well and healthy and feel joy and happiness. And with some of the stuff that the U.S. and just the world has gone through over the last few years has been really, really difficult,” she said.

Carama’s role as the leader of Lexington, Kentucky's anti-violence prevention and intervention initiative involves a close relationship with local police. It’s why he says he felt he needed to watch the videos in their entirety.

"I'm getting closer and closer to the point where I'm probably going to stop subjecting myself to these things because I can definitely understand the trauma. I can definitely understand how it triggers people. When it doesn't, it doesn't do anything for people to watch it. I understand that, but for me, I feel like I need to watch it as that constant reminder," he said.

He’s choosing to use his feelings about what he saw as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done as a society and in Lexington.

"I think for me, the best way that I was able to deal with my emotions today was to come in and just remind people, remind myself, people that I work with, the community, that this fight needs to continue. You know, Black History Month is coming and don't let it just be, well we checking boxes and putting up, you know, social media posts like it's all good. We need to dig deeper," said Carama.

In his biweekly report to partners, that call to action was his message.

“I’ve talked about the importance of remembering these issues that are still here that are not just going away because we wish it away and we still have to continue looking at our internal biases. We still have to continue to try to perfect the system,” said Carama. “That might be one of the reasons I’m here and, you know, I felt like God chose me to be somebody who could speak to that issue in a way that you know all of us hopefully can receive it.”

Whatever decision you make about the video is personal. Either way, Downey says to find time this week to intentionally do something you love or that brings you joy.

"If you do have to see it, witness it, learn about it, you really can't pick up your phone without seeing it in your headlines, especially if you have like a smartphone. You know, what are you going to do to counteract that in terms of self-care, self-love, self-compassion?” said Downey.

Most importantly, don’t suppress your feelings.

Mental Health Resources

Trauma-Informed Counseling Center: []

Trauma Resources

National Human Trafficking Hotline

(888) 373-7888

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

(800) 273-8255

For more information on childhood trauma, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

This article was written by Christiana Ford for WLEX.