To Riot or Not to Riot? That is the Question!

National Guard Activated To Calm Tensions In Baltimore In Wake Of Riots After Death Of Freddie Gray


We’ve all seen it on the news – public displays of violence caused by negative thoughts and behaviors. But do you realize that the violence may be a distractor from underlying behavioral health concerns and/or unbearable social conditions?

The recent Baltimore Riots give insight into how experiences of anxiety (e.g., fear, panic, and uneasiness) and depression (e.g., anger, helplessness, hopelessness, and irritability) may lead to episodes of aggressive, antagonistic, defiant, and reckless behavior within communities across the globe. Some known social conditions that may also contribute to these episodes include:

  • Crime-stricken neighborhoods;
  • Low-income housing;
  • Rampant substance abuse; and
  • Increased unemployment rates

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere.” So, take a deep breath for one moment. Let your mind drift. Imagine how it might feel to have your cries for help fall onto deaf ears. Focus on how your body might feel. Consider how you might respond.

One’s belief that their circumstances will never change may cause them to develop and utilize dysfunctional methods of getting their needs met. However, how effective are these methods? Studies have shown that although rioting may be thought of as a way of garnering unity within the community regarding a common concern, it may actually be counterproductive to the overall goal.

However, behavioral health interventions can protect against future emotional distress and reckless behavior by:


  1. Supporting the development of healthy coping skills to manage daily life stress;
  2. Replacing unhelpful patterns of thinking with more effective patterns of thinking; and
  3. Encouraging a more appropriate and effective communication style


For more information, please contact Hillcrest Center at (202) 232-6100 or email us at

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Amelia Hall, M.A.Amelia R. Hall, M.A. is a clinical psychology doctoral student, with a special concentration in diversity and multicultural related issues.