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June 04, 2020

Supporting your mental health as a young Black person

Safiyyah

Dealing with racism as a young Black person is challenging at the best of times, but when another incident of racial trauma occurs, and distressing scenes are spread across social media and the news, it’s another painful reminder that our lives are not valued. It’s crucially important during these times for us to protect our mental health and wellbeing the best that we can. Here are some self-care tips and resources, inspired by Reign x Shine’s Instagram post, for how you can support your mental health. 

1. Set firm boundaries and enforce them 

You do not have to explain or justify your feelings to anybody. Nor are you under any obligation to educate white people on what you are experiencing. The existence of racism, the fight against racism and your response to racism, is not up for debate. Speaking on racial gaslighting, Jacquelyn Ogorchukwu reminds us: 

  • Do not let anyone tell you how to feel about something they have never had to experience in their body 
  • Do not exhaust yourself arguing with someone who is more concerned about not being called racist, than simply doing the work to be anti-racist 
  • Do not spend any time trying to prove why something is racist, your experience is your expertise 

2. Be mindful about your scrolling 

Social media and the news can be very overwhelming. Whilst it can be tempting to scroll through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, watching and reading every video, article, tweet and post that comes into view – give yourself permission to take a break if it’s getting too much. 

3. Indulge in and celebrate black creativity and joy 

Immerse yourself in, and celebrate, black creativity, humour, art and joy! As was beautifully worded below by poet, Caleb Femi – do not underestimate the power of joy. 

View this post on Instagram

Small notes on joy & imagination.

A post shared by Caleb Femi (@caleb.femi) on

This joy may come in the form of listening to your favourite black musicians, black radio, black-led podcasts, cooking cultural dishes or supporting black-owned businesses. Switching off and actively centring black joy within your day does not mean that you no longer care, but it is one way in which you can seek respite from traumatising media.   

4. Feel your feelings  

Your feelings and experiences are valid. Personally, I have been feeling everything from hopeless to angry, numb, fearful and sad – and I want to remind Black people reading this blog (as well as myself), that we should allow ourselves to feel these feelings without judgement, and seek out emotional support when needed. Here are some resources that may come in handy: 

5. Centre your care and personal needs 

How do you plan on looking after yourself? Self-care varies from person to person and we all seek peace in different ways in order to tune in to our individual needs. For me, this has been playing board games, (binge) watching TV shows, drinking water, spending time in nature/ under the sun, switching off technology and starting a skin care Trello board (thank you, black esthetician twitter!).  

Mitigating my distress with good news, joy, pleasure and self-care is a healing act of self-preservation, not self-indulgence

Affirmation shared by activist-therapist, Araya Baker

As well as taking the time to reflect on what you can do (or not do) to centre your care and personal needs, do the best that you can to meet your basic needs and get good rest, breathe deeply, hydrate and eat well. Below are some resources that you might find useful:  

6. Connect with other black people 

It’s important to seek comfort and support from those around you that you can trust with your feelings. Not only this, but spending time with black people can help to build a sense of community and act as a reminder that you are not alone. If you can, (safely) spend time with other black people – be it friends, or within online communities. Below are some resources/ digital communities of black people that you might find useful: 

  • RevolYOUtion London: a youth organisation and community based in South East London that is currently running a program of fun virtual events (stay tuned for our next pub quiz!) 
  • Black Girls Gamers (facebook/twitter)  
  • The Free Black University: imagining transformative worlds and engaging the radical black imagination 
  • Kids of colour is a platform for young people of colour to explore race, identity and culture and challenge the everyday, institutionalised racism that shapes our lives 

I really hope these come in useful for you, and remember that, as part of the Make Our Rights Reality movement, we stand together for human rights, which means black rights and black lives. You can read our full statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement here.

Safiyyah is the Campaigns and Youth Engagement Assistant at Youth Access, where she looks after Make Our Rights Reality’s network of young Rights Advocates who campaign for Our Minds Our Future. In her spare time, she also helps to run RevolYOUtion London, a youth organisation and community promoting debate around social and political issues.

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