Indiana mental health experts explain how to manage impacts of Chauvin trial

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Trials that are front and center on the national stage can have an impact on some people’s mental health.

The images are everywhere: TV, smartphone, computer, tablet. All of that can bring emotions right to the surface.

Mental health therapist George Middleton says watching the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and ones like it can have an impact on mental health. “It’s reliving trauma. The George Floyd incident was a major awakening for the country and really for the world.”

Danny Kissel is watching. “I’ve actually never really watched a trial of this importance from, like, beginning to end, which I feel like I might do. Overall, it’s been good for my mental health.”

But, he said, there have been moments of stress. “That has been pretty stressful, just knowing and putting myself into the shoes of a juror.”

Middleton said he thinks it’s important for people to increase self-awareness when they feel stress. “First, be aware that you’re getting stressed out. Be aware that you’re getting angry. That’s the time your body’s trying to tell you something. That’s a time for you to stop and make some conscious decisions. Why am I getting angry? Do I want to continue in this line? Or do I want to do something different?”

Middleton said it takes practice, but people can learn how to identify their feelings and make conscious steps toward preventing or easing them.

Middleton told News 8 that the Indy Black Chamber will host a disparities initiative event next week to help teach people how to process and reduce the stress associated with racial and diversity issues.

Dr. Anne Mary Montero, director of Behavioral Health at IU Health North hospital, said everyone’s own responses are their own authority. Their experience is their own truth.

News 8 spoke with Montero about mental health aspects as it relates to the Chauvin trial. She said there’s a wide range of “normal” when it comes to witnessing something difficult; that can set off a trauma response, even when people aren’t directly involved. She says just acknowledging that feelings exist in the first place is a big step ahead. There can be a wide range of reactions.

“We can do lots of things, fortunately, to help ourselves through those moments. Keeping routine, protecting our sleep, keeping physical movement and keeping grounded. All of those will help regulate our bodies and step out of that fight-or-flight, they call it not the fight, flight or freeze response which can come even if we’re not directly involved. Just witnessing something difficult.”

Montero said to let yourself feel what you’re feeling. Look for social support, which means finding someone you care about and trust to talk with about it. She said one thing people can do when they feel overwhelmed or feel any of those emotions is to take a deep breath. Doing that helps reset the nervous system and doing it regularly can help the body bring itself back down from the alarm system to closer to normal.

Montero said IU Health stands ready to support the community.