On May 25th, 2020 individuals from all backgrounds across the world were heartbroken by the murder of George Floyd. Floyd was one of many victims to police brutality and racist attacks both at the time of and the time after he was killed. Some took this opportunity to spread awareness, raise funds or begin protesting. But far too many people felt that it was their place to mass spread footage of the traumatic and ravaging murder all over the internet, and so it begins.
Black people all across the globe had to see a man like themselves murdered all over their timelines and Instagram stories under the guise of “spreading awareness” and activism but is it really activism if the direct action of sharing these videos has deep effects on the mental health of people of color specifically Black people?
In 2018 The Lancet, one of the worlds best and oldest medical journals, published a study led by Atheendar S. Venkataramani who is an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at Perelman School of Medicine. The study found that even for those not directly involved, African Americans were more likely to experience bad mental health days and morbid emotions after unarmed police killings. Furthermore according to Kaiser health news African American adults are already 20% more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the population.
Why do we need to have videos of Black trauma go viral over and over again in order to get people to care about our suffering? Black people have been speaking on these issues for decades.Vanessa Brown, 17
This desensitized repost frenzy did not stop or begin with Floyd there was Rodney King, Oscar Grant, Alton Sterling, Ahmaud Arbery and countless more assaults’ and murders that have been shared so casually through the years on video.
On top of this, the world has been heavily relying on people of color to carry the responsibility of educating their peers leaving many drained and in a worse mental state than ever before.
Mental health services like therapists can be pricey making them, more often than not, inaccessible to largely marginalized communities therefore a privilege. White therapists make up the majority of therapists in the US( suspected to be about 80% ) and even less of that last 20% are Black therapists so those who can access therapy will have a harder time finding someone who could authentically understand their experiences. Some don’t have the option at all because of the negative stigma around mental health issues that is deeply woven across most if not all non – white communities. To put it simply, there are many forces working against minorities getting proper mental health care that they need during times like this and any other time as a matter of fact.
So what are ways that we can care for ourselves when we don’t have access to these resources, better yet in what ways can we take care of our mental health without feeding into colonized self care?
Self care has become marketable, it is something that can be bought. It’s a five dollar face mask and crystal face roller from target, a 60$ candle or a bath spa set. Not to say that these aren’t valid ways of making yourself temporarily happy because I too have fallen victim to an overpriced bath bomb that smells too good to leave, but it is a method that was created by capitalism which is inherently classist, racist, and exploitative. It’s okay to want things you don’t need and purchase items you would like to have but we should stop labeling consumerism as self care. Instead, we should search for self healing and self soothing outside of capitalism as it is more sustainable and effective.
In many POC’s cultural societies self sacrifice is normalized and praised. So in times like this when we are being asked to give so much it is more important than ever to practice a version of self care that has not been corrupted by capitalism.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.Audre Lorde
Self care for marginalized communities can mean not intentionally self destructing for the sake of others. Putting yourself first for once instead of taking the bullet. It is empowering yourself and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Of course these can be achieved through your own actions and some guidance, but true self care can also be found in the support we receive from the arms of our communities.
What are some options?
It’s more simple than you think! While one on one therapy can be more personal, the bills add up quick. Consider reaching for podcast projects like Therapy For Black Girls which provides a range of mental health advice specific to Black Women for completely free. Another good podcast is called Hats Off Podcast hosted by a Black duo working to destigmatize mental health.
If podcasts aren’t your thing try looking for community spaces where you can have meaningful conversations about shared experiences. Identifying mutual aid groups in your area and reaching out to them about these issues is a great way to organize something to help you and your peers have a discussion and share any knowledge or mutual emotions. They might even have other reliable resources to direct you to already!
You can also do something more simple like finding advice on YouTube from reliable sources and implementing some of that into your daily life.
However, it is important to note that in some instances professional therapy and counseling can be necessary, but unfortunately there is still a price tag on that essential help. Luckily there are loop holes and some amazing people working to help make therapy free for some.
Here is a list :
- Black Journalists’ Therapy fund ( BJTRF ) For Black Journalists in light of all the hard news being put in the spotlight.
- The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation Focus on black communities but now open to teens and young adults of color
- The Loveland Foundation Focus on Black Women and girls
- Black Emotional And Mental Health Free online webinars to help Black folk navigate their emotions and Mental Health.
- Talk Space The service normally is not free but they do have programs where you can apply to get free therapy.
Self Care and Wellness is something that should not be projected as only being achievable for those who are financially stable or only for the average cis, straight, white person, ” Racism, transphobia, ableism, sexism, classism, etc. maintain barriers to self-care to the extent that marginal people often feel guilty for working towards it. Challenge whatever tells you that you don’t deserve your own healing.” ( Rex Leonowicz )