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Racism and Your Mental Health

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

Throughout history race has been a complex issue, which has been used to categorise, reward, and penalise people based on their differences for centuries. Race is often being defined by skin tone and other physical attributes,it has no genetic basis and has a tremendous impact on individuals lives as it’s mostly used to maintain privileges and power for those races believed to be superior and penalise races that are thought to be inferior.

Covert racism is a form of racial discrimination that is disguised and subtle, rather than public or obvious. Concealed in the fabric of society, covert racism discriminates against individuals through often evasive or seemingly passive methods - Wikipedia

Types of Racism

Subtle racism - Categorised by subtle racist remarks, jokes and assumptions of people of colour

Individual racism - Stems from personal prejudice. When it’s expressed consciously, the individual is aware of their prejudice and bias. In most instances individual racism is unconsciously expressed.

Institutional (systemic) racism - Ingrained racist policies and processes in institutional level of our society. Found in hospitals, prisons, schools and throughout all levels of government

Internalised racism - Occurs when the racial or ethnic group being discriminated against begins to accept society’s racist attitudes and beliefs.

Racism and Mental Health

The affect from stereotyping, hate crimes, and economic inequality are just a few examples of the impact that racism has, all of which can have a detrimental effect on mental health. Being treated differently or unfairly because of our race, skin colour or ethnicity can cause: -

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Substance abuse disorders

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Racism can happen anywhere and its effects on an individual’s mental health occur as a result of stress. The stress response, or the “fight, flight, or freeze” response, is how the body prepares to escape from danger. When individuals experience prolonged exposure to stress it can cause trauma. Our minds and bodies have various ways of coping with trauma but racial trauma is more complex, as the threat of discrimination continues and normally embedded in society. This will impacts a person’s quality of life and can lead to additional stress if they find it difficult to work, lose income, or can no longer attend school.

Getting Help

When an individual finds racism has impacted on their mental health help needs to be sought and coping mechanism need to be put in place. Individuals can find support from friends, family and dedicated groups with the community along with seeking trauma therapy from organisations who understand the negative impact of racism on mental health and give you help to reduce this.

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