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Hurdle White Paper: The Impact of George Floyd's Murder on BIPOC's Mental Health

Posted on
February 15, 2023

White paper foreword written by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy and 16th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher

Co-authored by leading mental health researchers Dr. Harold "Woody" Neighbors and Dr. Norma L. Day-Vines, Associate Dean for Diversity and Faculty Development in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Hurdle, an innovative digital mental health company, today announced the publication of a white paper on Black mental health before and after George Floyd's death. On the heels of the first anniversary of George Floyd's murder, the white paper takes a look at how his death and the social justice movement birthed in its wake have resulted in various forms of trauma for people of color. It provides a rationale for promoting culturally sensitive mental health care. The white paper includes a powerful foreword co-authored by former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum, and 16th U.S. Surgeon General and Four-Star Admiral Dr. David Satcher.  

The paper is co-authored by leading mental health researchers Dr. Harold "Woody" Neighbors, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Dr. Norma L. Day-Vines, Associate Dean for Diversity and Faculty Development in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. The white paper can be downloaded here from the Hurdle web site.

"This is a watershed moment for mental health and for removing hurdles to care for those who need it most," Congressman Kennedy said. "Racial injustice has long punctuated the mental health burden of Black Americans. In the aftermath of Floyd's murder, there was a groundswell of activism and pledges were made to rectify those injustices. This paper offers a path forward for action and accountability, connecting the dots between America's racial history, racial trauma, and the role that culturally competent mental health care plays in achieving racial equity."

"There is no health without mental health," Dr. Satcher said. "The country needs to make a real and long-term commitment to creating a mental health care system that is both accessible and culturally relevant to all. In the words of Benjamin Elijah Mays, 'Not failure, but low aim is sin.' This paper offers a road map for how America can and must aim high in correcting the broken systems that perpetuate health inequities. In this way, it honors George Floyd's life."

"For Black Americans, the psychological trauma from decades of institutional racism and the violence it has unleashed is deep, which is why it's so important to provide context and perspective to help advance the discussion in a healthy way," says Dr. Day-Vines and Dr. Neighbors. "The aftermath of this event has shined an even brighter spotlight on the critical shortage of mental health services that are culturally appropriate for Black Americans. So many either don't seek treatment or end it early because they don't feel heard, understood, or validated by the therapist, and this needs to change."

The paper covers comprehensive aspects of the George Floyd murder including an open dialogue about the event and its impact on Black Americans, including race-based versus vicarious trauma, historical antecedents to the event, and the historical context in mental health care, among others. The authors highlight this as a unique opportunity to acknowledge what the psychological damage that racism and violence against these people has done—and for Black Americans to make fundamental changes to the ways they choose to access mental health treatment.

The Kennedy Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity, The National Alliance on Mental Health, and Hurdle will host a symposium with Congressman Kennedy, Dr. Satcher, and the co-authors Dr. Neighbors and Dr. Day-Vines on May 25, the first anniversary of George Floyd's death, to present and discuss the white paper. The symposium will be moderated by Dan H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). To sign up for the symposium:

Black Mental Health Before and After George Floyd's Death
Moderator: Dan H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of NAMI
Tuesday, May 25 |2:00–3:00 PM ET
Click here to register for the event

"For too long, Black Americans have been deprioritized in our research, in our treatment practices, and in our society at large," says Daniel H. Gillison Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). "The murder of George Floyd last May further shined a spotlight on racial disparities, including disparities in mental health care—as rates of depression and anxiety increased for Black Americans in the wake of his death. It's time to start talking about the effects of racial trauma; it's time to start talking about the effects of re-traumatization seriously; and it's time to start creating a system of care that works for all."

About Hurdle
Established in 2018, Hurdle is a digital platform revolutionizing mental health care by providing services with a focus on culturally sensitive self-care support for people of color. According to the American Psychiatric Association, Black Americans often receive poorer quality of care and lack access to culturally competent care. Only one in three Black Americans who needs mental health care receives it. Hurdle is working to break down the barriers to mental health care for people of color to create an equitable behavioral health service with culturally responsive care and resources. For more information, please visit

About the Kennedy Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity
The Kennedy Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity (KSCMHE) was jointly envisioned by the 16th U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, and former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI). Building on their long-standing relationship and shared commitment to promoting mental health parity and health equity for people living with mental health and substance use disorders, the Center was made possible through a generous endowment from The Kennedy Forum, and matched by MSM's endowment from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

About NAMI
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI provides support, education, and advocacy nationwide with our network of 650 NAMI state organizations and affiliates.


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