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Reflections on Black Men & Mental Health Symposium, Part 2 - Policing & Race

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In recent discussions, at the Black Men and Mental Health Symposium at the Hutchings Center of Harvard University, on the complex challenges surrounding community safety and mental health, community leader Tito Jackson and advocate Michael Curry shared their insights on several pressing issues. Their remarks shed light on the heightened suicide rates among Black youth, the mental health of police officers, and the systemic changes needed to improve policing and community relations.

Jackson began with a sobering statistic, highlighting a crisis often overlooked: "Suicide rates are now two times higher among black children, ages five through 12." This alarming trend underscores the urgency for targeted mental health interventions and support within communities.

Delving into the topic of policing, Jackson shared his personal experiences with simulation training: "I would be a horrible police officer... I made several mistakes, and there are folks who I would have shot." This candid admission serves to highlight the complexities and rapid judgments required in policing, which can have life-altering consequences.

He also emphasized the psychological toll on officers, advocating for systematic support: "For the fire department in the city of Boston, we have something called O2X, a program designed by the Navy SEALs... I think we should ensure that there's a similar program that looks at police officer wellness."

Michael Curry, alongside other prominent speakers, delved into the complex relationship between law enforcement and Black communities. The theme of the talk revolved around "The Talk," a critical conversation passed down through generations within Black families about navigating interactions with police. This discourse emerges from a history of distress and a desire to mitigate generational trauma inflicted by disparate treatment from law enforcement.

Curry emphasized the importance of law enforcement personnel understanding the historical and ongoing dynamics of their interactions with Black communities. By presenting them with scenarios involving individuals of different races and appearances, Curry highlights the implicit biases that often guide officers' decisions in tense situations: "When I walk into a room with them, I give them scenarios... You can almost always see the wheels turn in their head because they don't see it the same."

He also criticized the lack of accountability within law enforcement, noting that systemic protections often shield officers from the repercussions of their actions, perpetuating a cycle of mistrust and injustice: "The reality is our system has never allowed for that accountability to happen in law enforcement."

Drawing on the research of Dr. Geronimus, Curry uses the metaphor of 'weathering' to describe how continuous exposure to stressful conditions—like discriminatory policing—can lead to physical and psychological harm: "Weathering, that conditions make you sick... when it comes to law enforcement, we become weathered to bad conditions, how they treat us."

Proposed Solutions

Jackson proposed several innovative ideas, such as establishing an advisory council involving young people to guide and advise police departments. He also suggested that police departments utilize data effectively to prevent officers with multiple infractions from remaining on duty, citing Las Vegas's approach as a model to consider.

Curry argued that while increasing diversity within police forces isn't a panacea, it is a step towards better representation and empathy in policing practices: "I talk to black officers more often than not, they can sit in the room and say, that's not a good policy... Put the gun away."

He also advocated for ongoing dialogue between police and community members as a way to build trust and understand each community's unique challenges and needs: "It's interesting... I get a chance to often be invited to speak to police academies."

Reflective Questions

  • How can communities better support the mental health of both young people and those in policing roles?
  • What systems can be put in place to ensure police officers are mentally and emotionally equipped to handle their duties compassionately and effectively?
  • How can advisory councils comprising young community members influence police practices and policies?
  • How can law enforcement training better address and correct implicit biases?
  • What changes are necessary to foster accountability and transparency in police actions?
  • In what ways can community support systems be strengthened to mitigate the effects of 'weathering'?


All Black Men Need Therapy - Chief, Bell, and Prentice unpack past and present issues that affect the mental health and well-being of black men. These brothers engage in honest, vulnerable dialogue surrounding the complexities of life as black men. They are committed to helping black men self-assess and grow more comfortable in having difficult conversations while encouraging them to strive daily to become the best version of themselves.

Black People, Check-In - Mandela, J. River, and Jermaine tackle all things mental health in the Black community. Join them as they talk about all the Blacketiest of Black s**t while confronting the realities of coping with mental health struggles, and dissecting how current events, pop culture & politics play a role in the wellness of Black mental health.

Black Men’s Mental Health Casanova Williams, CEO, Father, Husband, Friend, Leader, Creator, and Entrepreneur brings challenges every day. But society never addresses the mental health of the black male as they do with other races and genders. For black males, the image is always ghetto, thug, aggressive, lazy, sex addict, deadbeat father, criminal, or just toxic masculinity. Black men are never seen as victims of mental health issues.

Express Yourself Black Man - Org that provides comprehensive mental health supports (podcasts, swag, a community platform where we take the stress out of the healing journey for Black men AND provide them access to the resources they need to heal through their premier mental health platform, Safe Haven.
BEAM Collective - BEAM is a national training, movement-building, and grant-making institution that is dedicated to the healing, wellness, and liberation of Black and marginalized communities.

Lama Rod Owens - Lama Rod Owens is a Black Buddhist Southern Queen. An international influencer with a Master of Divinity degree in Buddhist Studies from Harvard Divinity School with a focus on the intersection of social change, identity, and spiritual practice. Author of The New Saints: From Broken Hearts to Spiritual Warriors and Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation through Anger and co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love and Liberation, his teachings center on freedom, self-expression, and radical self-care. Highly sought after for talks, retreats, and workshops, his mission is to show you how to heal and free yourself.


In their concluding remarks, both Jackson and Curry shared personal experiences illustrating the mistrust between Black communities and police forces. Jackson remarked, "As a black man, oftentimes we need the police... but I did not feel at that time that I could call the police." This powerful statement calls for an urgent reevaluation of community-police interactions, aiming to build a foundation of trust and respect. Curry's insights further provide a compelling overview of the challenges and potential solutions in improving police-community relations. Their call for understanding, accountability, and increased diversity within law enforcement serves as a foundation for building a more just and equitable society.

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