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J Trauma Stress. 2016 Aug;29(4):283-92. doi: 10.1002/jts.22105. Epub 2016 Jun 2.

Exposure to Violence During Ferguson Protests: Mental Health Effects for Law Enforcement and Community Members.

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National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Center for Trauma Recovery, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
Department, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Independent Statistical Consultant.


There is little information available on the mental health effects of exposure to shared community violence such as the August 2014 violence that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. This study sought to examine the relationship between proximity to community violence and mental health in both community members and police officers. We recruited 565 adults (community, n = 304, and police, n = 261) exposed to the violence in Ferguson to complete measures of proximity to violence, posttraumatic stress, depression, and anger. Using structural equation modeling, we assessed aspects of proximity to violence-connectedness, direct exposure, fear from exposure, media exposure, reactions to media, and life interruption-as correlates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, depression, and anger. The final model yielded (n = 432), χ(2) (d = 12) = 7.4, p = .830; comparative fit index = 1.0, root mean square error of approximation = 0 [0, .04]. All aspects of proximity except direct exposure were associated with mental health outcomes. There was no moderation as a function of community versus police. Race moderated the relationship between life interruptions and negative outcomes; interruption was related to distress for White, but not Black community members. Based on group comparisons, community members reported more symptoms of PTSD and depression than law enforcement (ηp (2) = .06 and .02, respectively). Black community members reported more PTSD and depression than White community members (ηp (2) = .05 and .02, respectively). Overall, distress was high, and mental health interventions are likely indicated for some individuals exposed to the Ferguson events.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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