The Effect of Racism on Mental Health

O U T T S P O K E N

It has been such an honour to collaborate with different platforms on topics related to mental health during the past few weeks. I really do hope that the blog posts have been helpful for you all in some way!

Today, Malaya Dean from The Afro Column has given us some insight on how racism can have an effect on our mental health. As well as some tips for mental health when it comes to racism. This is such an important topic for many of us. Especially people of colour. But definitely, all of us can learn a thing or two from today’s read.

Do you agree that mental health is overlooked when it comes to racism?

I absolutely think that mental health is overlooked when it comes to racism. Society sadly expects minorities to brush off the discrimination that they face daily with ease. Dealing with racism comes in many forms and each experience causes trauma to people of colour. The issue is that society never labels acts of racism as trauma, so they don’t think that it affects the individual in a big way when in reality it negatively affects their emotional and mental health.

Alongside that, specifically in the black community, it is definitely overlooked because we have been groomed to believe that showing you are hurt or not mentally well is a sign of weakness. We are known to be strong and our pain has been dismissed and ignored for centuries. So, we naturally push down our own feelings, hold in our tears, and keep fighting each day.

Have you ever experienced anything for yourself that impacted you in a way mentally?

Yes, I have experienced a few different incidents that have personally affected me. I would have to say the most recent being the protests that started after the death of George Floyd. Although this didn’t directly affect me or my family, it hit a nerve for me because the government was not taking the issue seriously. They still don’t. I couldn’t sleep at night and I was very jittery for a few weeks. My anxiety was at an all-time high during this time and I decided to take action by starting to journal to get how I feel out of my head. Another experience I had was very personal and had the same effect on me mentally. This past New Year’s, I was with my boyfriend’s family and the kids were out front playing with harmless sparklers while other people in the neighbourhood were popping fireworks (fireworks are prohibited in the area).

The police rushed to our house and shined their lights on the kids as if they were criminals. This led to an instant uproar with the adults because there should be no reason for the police to chastise children. Being that my boyfriend is a black man who is 6’4, he decided to try to calm the situation down without antagonizing them. But, with the whole family outside yelling, the environment was hostile and the cop immediately tried to arrest my boyfriend. He chose the one person that was trying to calm the situation down because he was the biggest and the darkest out of everyone.

He was an easy target and the officer took advantage of that. He chose us out of all the houses in the neighbourhood when we weren’t doing anything wrong whatsoever. After this occurred I couldn’t sleep and watched my boyfriend as he slept because I feared for his life that night. It’s scary to hear about these type of stories, but it’s 1000x more frightening being in the face of it.

Is racism something that can impact your mental health? And is being outspoken something that will help people to heal?

Yes, racism definitely impacts your mental health. How it impacts someone will differ, but all in all, everyone should take note of it and address it. I think that being outspoken can help to heal a portion of it, but not all of it. Many people that face racism are already outspoken. Within the last few months, we have seen just how much of an impact being outspoken can be. It helps to let out your frustration, similar to journaling, but instead, you’re making it known!

I also think being outspoken can help to make a person of colour feel more secure in their skin regardless of what people say which can help to cope better when they are facing racism. Being outspoken is the first step to healing in my opinion, but you also have to take extra steps to heal. Unfortunately, I think that we can never completely heal though until there are changes in the system because if there are no changes, it will just continue to be a never-ending cycle.

Lastly, any encouragements for those who are struggling with racial issues.

If you are dealing with racial issues, I want to tell you that you are not alone. There are millions of people who have experienced your pain and have been where you have been. I also want to remind you that after the storm, there’s always sunshine. Better days will come.

I know it may feel like the days are dragging, but you will get through this! One of my biggest tips for someone dealing with racial issues is to know your rights! This is one of the most helpful things you can do because you’ll be surprised at how the police try to take advantage of your lack of knowledge on the law. This is also helpful if you’re dealing with racism in the corporate field! Another tip is to remain calm and don’t act on how you feel in the moment.

I know it’s not right that non-poc get to yell and do what they want while minorities have to watch what they say, but this is something that could potentially save your life.

Tips for your mental health when dealing with racism:

1. Talk to someone. Whether it is someone close to you or a professional you should definitely express how you are feeling to someone.

2. Write it down! I personally journal and I use to write poetry when I use to feel angry, frustrated, or anxious. Getting your thoughts out on paper will unclog your mental and will give you a sense of relief.

3. Do something that will make a change! Sign petitions, learn the names of those who have suffered from police brutality, become an advocate for equality by joining groups, make donations, raise awareness. There are so many ways you can help make a difference and it can help to put your focus on something productive and helpful!

4. Take time to care for yourself! This is so important because when your mind is everywhere it is hard to remember to engage in some self-care. Whether it’s taking a bath with a face mask or finding a new hobby such as painting or skating, as long as the time is dedicated to you then you’re doing it right!

5. Put your phone down! Believe it or not, your phone can bring a lot of negativity into your mind. Social media is great and all, but it can be very toxic as well. By putting your phone down, you are avoiding a source of negativity and opening up time to embrace positivity. I love to pair this up with doing something I love because that means you are genuinely indulging in yourself.

Thank you for reading! please feel free to leave any thoughts in the comments below. And don’t forget to check out The Afro Column on their Website and on Instagram.

Whitney X Malaya xo

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