COVID-19 and George Floyd’s death take mental toll on African Americans

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A demonstrator held up a sign while fires burned and protestors congregated in the Fairfax District. Photo by Angel Carreras/KCRW.

The coronavirus pandemic and police killing of George Floyd is taking a tremendous toll on the mental health of African Americans. They’re contracting and dying from COVID-19 at a disproportionate number. And watching the video of Floyd’s death is more difficult to watch if you’re black.

Actor Conroe Brooks was part of the touring company for the hit musical “Hamilton” before the pandemic shut down everything. He was an ensemble member, and an understudy for both George Washington and King George. 

“I'm constantly emotional,” he says. “It actually took me a few days to bring myself to be able to watch the video. When I did, it's hard to put into words because you feel anger, you feel sadness, you feel hopeless. But then you feel passionate. It's everything, a lifetime of this stuff going on circles your brain, and you have to compartmentalize it. Like, how do I handle this? How do I move forward and still try to produce change when part of me thinks there won’t be?”


Actor Conroe Brooks says he’s constantly emotional over the killing of George Floyd and recent unrest. Photo courtesy of Conroe Brooks. 

Angela Neal researches anxiety disorders among African Americans. She’s a clinical psychologist and professor of psychological sciences at Kent State. 

She adds, “It becomes incumbent upon our white colleagues to be willing to have discussions within themselves to say, ‘What can we do? How do we help? Here's what we want to do.’ And do it. Because your [black] workers are exhausted. They're numb and they're in pain. And it's very difficult for them to shoulder the burden of telling you what to do.”


Psychologist Angela Neal says it’s difficult for African Americans to shoulder the burden of telling others how they can help. Photo courtesy of Angela Neal. 
Credits

Guests:
Angela Neal - clinical psychologist; Kent State, Conroe Brooks - actor, singer, writer

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin, Kathryn Barnes