The Mental Health Impacts of Racism

In the wake of civil unrest, it’s worth restating the facts. Racism is the discrimination and mistreatment of someone based on their cultural heritage/ race. This can show up in many different ways, some intentional and others not. However, too often it manifests into an engrained belief that all people of a certain ethnicity are one and the same; that all people of a certain race are thugs and alcoholics. It could be even mean killing an innocent man because his skin colour makes you believe he’s a threat.

Immediate Psychological impacts

There’s a lot of misunderstanding around this topic and its severity. The lack of understanding towards the black experience is the root cause behind the resistance of the equality movement. “Why are people so mad over this one guy dying, I mean it’s sad but come on…’. It’s a statement you hear regularly, but it’s precisely this rhetoric that becomes dangerous once spread. The reality is that this kind of thinking has underlying impacts. Some will show immediately, others will fester under the surface, but the result is ultimately dire. Those subjugated to racist attitudes and behaviours;

  • Are more like to have suicidal thoughts
  • Have decreased emotional regulation
  • Are less likely to engage in health activities (eat well, exercise, sleep etc)
  • Have increased anxiety and depression
  • Have significantly decreased self-esteem (less likely go for positions of power e.g promotions, higher study, etc)
  • Are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviour (drug use, etc)

How to be more culturally sensitive?

Cultural sensitivity is achieved through one word; empathy. Simple, however, without this core principle, it is impossible to neutralise the hate. The human experience is to view situations through the lens we see the world with; from our own perspective. When it comes to issues of diversity, this can be an issue. When you aren’t the person in question, it is impossible to understand their pain, particularly if you’re looking at the situation through your lens. I often hear people say, “They don’t have to be so angry about it, this isn’t going to solve anything”, without asking themselves the question “why?”. Why are so many people angry? Why do so many feel hopeless? Why are so many feeling deeply hurt? Why is their experience so different to mine? It’s time for us ALL to listen and learn. People of colour are killing themselves at an alarming rate and that can only be addressed through unity. Black, White, Asian, Human. We all have a part to play.

Where you can get help if you’re feeling psychologically impacted by the recent events:

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue 1300 224 63
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Article by Nick & Femi

Nick and Femi are Experienced Psychiatric Nurses who are passionate about destigmatizing mental health worldwide. We focus on a light-hearted approach to having such a traditionally awkward conversation- incorporating humour and real-life scenarios. We’ve teamed up some of Australia’s leading industry experts to have enjoyable conversations on our podcast “Uncovered with Nick and Femi”. Instagram: @nickandfemi

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