Your mental health is paramount
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These last few weeks have been difficult for so many people, particularly those in the black community. With every state in America and close to 50 other countries around the world protesting to demand justice for George Floyd, who brutally died at the hands of the police, we have witnessed one of the largest civil rights movement in history.
While we can and should feel proud of ourselves for standing up to make a real change to society worldwide, the toll this can take on your mental health is serious. For some, you get to learn about racism by choosing to educate yourself on it, for others, you might have had to learn about racism by experiencing it.
It’s something that absolutely no one should have to face, yet this last week has highlighted so many oppressed voices who are now speaking out about the injustice they have experienced in the past based on the colour of their skin.
In times like this, the power of social media is clear to see, together we have the ability to change the world at our fingertips, but on the flip side of that, the words, images, and messages passed around online can be triggering. Seeing images of people of colour treated in such an inhumane manner and reading the negative opinions of others can have a lasting effect on your mental health. It can also bring up past personal trauma, making it extremely difficult to heal.
If you’re a person of colour and are feeling anxious, exhausted or traumatised, here are some ways you can cope.
Firstly, it’s important to know that everyone’s trauma is different. “Targets of racism can suffer from damage to their mental and emotional well-being, and their sense of self-worth and sense of belonging may be shattered,” says the Immigrant Council of Ireland. While the feeling of hurt is universal, the ways in which we all deal with it, are not.
For some, dealing with race-based trauma might mean switching off, if you want to get away from social media for a while do that. For others their coping mechanism may be to stay as active as possible on social media and in real life, creating posts about your experiences, sharing your story, listening to others, if any of those things make you feel better then do it too. There is no one way to be heal from racial trauma, so listen to your body and do what it asks of you. There is no pressure for you to act or feel a certain way, so keep checking in on yourself throughout this time too and do whatever you feel is right.
This may be a friend, family member, or professional. The immigrant council recommends first checking your local religious or community group for support in your area. However, if there is no support available to you there, the Immigrant Council of Ireland’s anti-racism referral support helpline is a free and non-judgemental service to seek help from. You can contact them on email@example.com.
Telling your story in a safe environment can have beneficial results on your mental health, so it’s important not to keep everything bottled up because there is always an ear that is willing to listen.
“Lack of solidarity from bystanders can deepen the trauma and sometimes it can leave more scars than the incident itself.” says the Immigrant Council of Ireland. Feeling like you’re alone in your fight can be detrimental to your mental health. However, always remind yourself that you’re not standing alone. There are so many others in the black community who understand exactly how you feel and are ready to fight with you for the cause. Similarly, there are also so many from other communities who cannot understand your experience on the same level, but is still ready to fight for the cause regardless, because they know the difference between right and wrong.
The Irish Network Against Racism says that knowing the community outside of your own is in solidarity with you is important in healing your own trauma, “acknowledgement and recognition by the wider community can be vital in a restorative and healing process.” For every racist individual in the world, there are 10 anti-racist ones who will stand with you no matter what. While the world certainly has a lot of work to do, we’ve seen through protests and demonstrations that millions across the globe are ready to put that work in to make society what it should be, and we can feel safe in the knowledge that this time, things are about to make that change.
Feature image via Unsplash.