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 of police brutality and racially-motivated attacks both during and after the time 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 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 social media timelines 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 world’s best and oldest medical journals, published a study led by Atheendar S. Venkataramani, 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 poor mental health and morbid emotions after unarmed police killings. Furthermore, African American adults are already 20% more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the population, according to Kaiser Health News.
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 – the assaults and murders of Rodney King, Oscar Grant, Alton Sterling, Ahmaud Arbery and countless more have been shared so casually throughout 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 and 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. Therefore, those who can access therapy will have a harder time finding someone who can authentically understand their experiences. Some don’t have the option at all due to 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.
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 – 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 to 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 methods outside of capitalism that are more sustainable and effective.
In many POC’s cultural societies, self-sacrifice is normalized and praised. So in times like these 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 free of charge. 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 simpler such as 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 loopholes 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 attainable only for those who are financially stable or for the average cisgendered, straight, able-bodied, 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)