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Racism is an issue many people young and old have to face in daily life, and the Black Lives Matter movement has brought up a lot of feelings for young people of colour. Read on to find out more about what racism is and how it can affect your mental health.
Racism is the act of being treated unfairly because of your race, skin colour or ethnicity. Racism can take many different forms. It can look like being called racist names or being singled out at school because of your race. If you are treated unfairly because of your race, this is called racial discrimination.
A crime that intentionally harms someone else because of their race is known as a hate crime and is illegal. If you are a victim or witness of hate crime, you can find confidential and accessible support at Stop Hate UK. For a 24-hour support service for young people under 18 experiencing or witnessing a hate crime, you can call 0808 801 0576 or text 07717989025.
Read on to learn about three types of racism and how they can affect your mental health.
Microaggressions are subtle, often unintentional forms of racism that are experienced by people of colour on a day to day basis. Some examples include:
Microaggressions can impact your mental health because they happen frequently and slowly over time and are often very difficult to recognise and respond to in the moment. Experiencing microaggressions daily can leave you feeling angry, with low mood, or low self-esteem.
Racial Bias is a prejudgment or prejudice of a person or group of people because of their race in comparison to another race. This usually results in unfair treatment of the person of colour.
An example may be when an outspoken black female is pre-judged as being aggressive, whereas a female from a different culture who acts the same way is perceived as being passionate.
For more examples of racial bias and how it can affect your mental health, check out this video of a group of African-American boys and young men sharing their experiences.
Biases can also be against a person’s age, gender, identity, religion and many other things. If your mental health has been impacted due to racial bias or any other form of bias, please read on for some helpful tips in the sections below.
Systemic racism is discrimination that has become part of normal life in society or in an organisation. It can affect how you are educated, the law, access to health care, employment and much more.
This form of racism happens when resources, power and opportunities are distributed in a way that exclude people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. For example, the lessons you are taught in schools often do not reflect the diversity, culture or the positive contributions from people of colour. This is because the curriculum has not been created by people from a range of culturally diverse backgrounds.
While you can’t challenge systemic racism by yourself, you can develop your skills and knowledge by connecting and learning from others, and finding ways to take care of your mental health.
Experiences of racism, whether microaggressions, racial bias or systemic racism, can affect your mental health. Over time they can leave you feeling lonely, unconfident, and angry. It can lead to issues with anxiety and depression.
Do any of these feelings come up for you connected to experiences of racism?
If you are in need of urgent help, Get Help Now.
Racism is a societal disease and is NOT the fault of any one person, especially not people of colour. Diversity in skin colour, culture, and ethnicity is something to be celebrated and to be proud of!
Your skin is beautiful, whatever the shade!
Find out about how other young people manage the effects of racism on mental health.
It is very natural to have a lot of feelings come up for you when experiencing or witnessing racism. The recent wave of the Black Lives Matter Movement across the world has forced a lot of young people of colour to confront these issues with friends, family and within themselves.
It is important to remember to take care of yourself when working through these difficult feelings and conversations. Keep in mind:
As a mixed-race girl with Caribbean heritage, I’ve always felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. At school I always felt torn between my two friends, my white friend Amy and my black friend Suhayla. I felt like I wasn’t ‘black enough’ for my BAME friends, but I was embarrassed and hid my culture from my white friends who couldn’t relate to me about a lot of things. I ended up avoiding bringing up anything about race altogether with both. I felt really anxious and self-conscious in my skin no matter who I spent time with. When the Black Lives Matter protests begun, my anxiety got worse. I was really nervous to post anything about it on social media even though it brought up a lot of feelings for me. I began to isolate myself and try to avoid any situations where someone might bring it up.
Amy and Suhayla noticed that something was wrong and reached out to me. After talking about how I was feeling, I realised that it wasn’t the colour of their skin or mine that brought us together, it was our friendship. I decided to try to stop being scared to talk about race with my friends. The more we talked about it, the easier it was. I invited them both for a day out in the park. Although some of the conversations were hard and a little awkward, we actually had such a fun time! Afterwards I took the time out to take care of myself by doing my favourite sport. Doing this regularly cleared my mind and helped me with my anxiety. I still feel nervous sometimes when I hang out with them, but being able to talk about it with really helped.
- Mikayla, 14
We have put together a few useful resources to help with how you're feeling.
It’s important to allow time and space for your mind to rest. If you’re feeling overwhelmed after experiencing or witnessing racism, or even just tired of talking about it, practice self-care. Take the time out once a week to do something that makes you feel good. This could be:
You may feel overwhelmed by the media or uneasy after experiencing or witnessing racism. While you might naturally want to withdraw or forget about it altogether, chances are someone else might feel the same way. Reach out to friends and family, or someone you trust, to talk about what happened or talk about how it has made you feel.
TIP: If you struggle to connect, try writing your feelings down and setting reminders on your phone to encourage you.
If you’re feeling low self-esteem and not feeling good in your skin, there are lots of things you can do to build up your confidence. This can include:
For more tips on building up your self-confidence and self-esteem, have a look at our Self-Esteem module.
If you experience or witness racism and it leaves you feeling frozen because you don’t know what to do or how to react, this can really lower your confidence. The YMCA Right Here young volunteers have put together an ongoing series of resources on how to safely challenge anti-black racism.
Check out the rest of the steps and other useful posts on the YMCA Right Here Instagram page.