Volume 56 | Number 6 | December 2021

Abstract List

Sirry Alang PhD


National movements have raised awareness of the adverse mental health effects of police brutality. This study examines the relationship between perceived police brutality and unmet need for mental health care.

Data Sources

We used the 2018 Survey of the Health of Urban Residents ( = 4338), a quota sample survey of adults in urban areas in the contiguous United States.

Study Design

Multivariate regressions were used to understand the association between police brutality and unmet need for mental health care. Unmet need was regressed on police brutality (the independent variable), controlling for sociodemographic and health status characteristics of respondents and access to care. We then stratified the sample by experiences of police brutality (no negative encounters with the police, encounters that were perceived as necessary, and encounters that were considered unnecessary) and described how medical mistrust and perceived respect within health care settings were associated with odds of unmet need for each subsample.

Data Collection

Data were collected online.

Principal Findings

Negative police encounters perceived as necessary were associated with greater odds of unmet need compared to no negative police encounters (odds ratio [OR] = 1.98, confidence interval [CI] = 1.30–2.65). Odds of unmet need were also higher among persons with negative and unnecessary police encounters (OR = 1.28, CI = 1.05–1.56). Greater respect was associated with lower odds of unmet need among persons who reported negative unnecessary encounters with the police (OR = 0.88, CI = 0.72–0.97). Medical mistrust was associated with greater odds of unmet need among those with negative unnecessary police encounters (OR = 1.52, CI = 1.12–1.93).


Persons who are exposed to police brutality are also likely to be those who experience unmet need for mental health care. Ensuring that they feel respected within medical settings and establishing conditions that build trust in medical institutions are important for eliminating unmet need for mental health care.