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19 Jul 2021

Racism and Mental Health

Being treated differently or unfairly because of race, skin colour or ethnicity can have long-lasting negative impacts on mental wellbeing. Racism can happen anywhere, at any time. Some people live with constant fear and anxiety as a result of this.

Recent news of the England footballers – Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka – receiving online racist abuse since their defeat against Italy in the Euro 2020 final demonstrates just how far-reaching and damaging racism can be. Such blatant hatred has created a variety of emotions for many. This includes shock, anger, hurt, disbelief, worry and fear.

Racism can be subtle, obvious or part of the structure that we live within. The important thing to remember is how you see the situation and how it makes you feel. Your feelings matter.

The mental health charity Young Minds describes that racism can be experienced both directly and indirectly. “Sometimes the things going on around us, to people just like us, can feel like they have happened to us and make us feel personally attacked, helpless, or like our lives don’t matter.” *


What does racism look like?

Examples of direct racism can include: –

  • Physical violence
  • Bullying
  • Stereotyping
  • Verbal abuse about the way somebody looks
  • Micro-aggressions (subtle yet offensive comments)

Examples of indirect racism can include: –

  • Having your feelings invalidated by dismissive comments
  • Denial that the problem of racism exists
  • Hearing in the news about negativity aimed towards groups that you identify with
  • Either little or no representation and misrepresentation across the media
  • Remarks that are directed at somebody that you love; a friend or family member
  • Inequality and unfairness across health, education and justice systems


What support is available?

Both direct and indirect experiences of racism can affect your self-esteem and confidence. It may even leave you feeling depressed, hopeless or angry. There are steps you can take to help improve your mental health.

  • Supportive groups and communities – Experiencing racism can be an isolating experience. Connecting with both online and in-person communities is a way to find like-minded people with shared experiences who can provide further support and advice. The BBC also has some useful links to charities that can help***
  • GP – Speak to your GP if you are experiencing continuous low mood, intrusive thoughts or think you have symptoms of PTSD. Changes in sleeping and eating, feeling numb or empty or feeling worried and stressed a lot of time are also things you should talk to them about
  • Have a social media ‘clear out’ – Although you cannot directly control what others say or do, you can control your social media feeds and choose not to engage. Remove negative posts or unfollow accounts and people that use language that upset you
  • Talking therapies – Counselling can provide a safe, non-judgemental space for you to focus on your feelings. It can be a space to explore and learn strategies for dealing with racism and racists**

At The Eaves, our therapists are available to provide further support if you’ve been affected by racism either directly or indirectly. Our practices are in Guildford, Godalming and Farnham as well as online. Our professionals see individuals of all ages, families, couples and young people 12 hours a day, Monday to Saturday between 9am and 9pm. Please call 01483 917000 to speak to a member of the referrals team. You can also send us an enquiry via our website. Click here to find out more.