What Are the Mental Health Effects of Racism?
Racism has had a major impact on mental health over the years and is most common among marginalized groups. Not only does it cause mental health conditions, but it also worsens mental health. Racism has terrible effects such as triggering unhealthy psychological responses, causes sleep disruptions, and increases the rates of substance use.
Racism comes in various forms such as harassment, microaggressions, and exclusion. For instance, children were separated from their families as part of forced assimilation programs. A study found that some children who experienced direct racial discrimination during early childhood had a heightened risk for poor mental and physical health during middle childhood, as compared to children who had not suffered racism.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the effects of racism on physical and mental health, facts about mental wellness, as well as coping mechanisms for victims of racial discrimination. Let`s get right into it!
Effects of Racism on Indigenous Communities
Racism causes inter-generationally transmitted trauma which can persist for decades, or even centuries after perpetuating the original trauma. Studies show that indigenous communities face higher rates of domestic violence as a result of racism. Native American and Alaskan Native women, in particular, are at a higher risk of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. About 85% of American Indian and Alaska Native women report that they have experienced violence during their lifetime.
Substance and Alcohol Use Disorders
Racially discriminated communities have a higher drug abuse rate. Native Americans and Alaskan Natives in the United States are more likely to experience the symptoms of a substance or an alcohol or substance use disorder than other races. This is largely due to racism, discrimination, and trauma.
Studies show that indigenous communities have higher suicide rates than non-indigenous populations. Women, as well as young people between the ages of 15 and 24, are more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts. Racism results in cumulative grief and historical trauma, which in turn, make people suicidal. Historical trauma is also linked to symptoms such as depression, low self-esteem, self-destructive behavior, survivor’s guilt, and fear.
How to Deal with Racism-Induced Mental Conditions
Discuss Racist Experiences with Others
It is healthier to talk about racist experiences, rather than bottling them up. This will help you combat the feelings of anger, stress, and frustration better.
Be Confident in your Racial Identity
Feeling strong and confident about your racial identity makes you less vulnerable to the physical and mental effects of racism. Try as much as possible to accept your identity and never give in to any form of derogation.
Reach out to Friends and Family
Ensure you have a network of people with whom you talk to seek advice, support, and comfort. This will help you cope better with racial discrimination. It will also give you a sense of identity and security, as well as reduce negative feelings and thoughts.
Regular exercise will ease anxiety, stress, and anger, alongside boosting your spirits and self-esteem. You could go for a walk or run, or even dance. Just do what works for you. Some people even lift weights and hit punching bags to release their frustration and ease tension.
Managing stress is highly important for you at this time. There are various relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing which can help you relieve stress and particularly calm your anxious mind.
It`s natural for people to turn to emotional eating whenever they’re anxious, stressed, or depressed. The kind of foods they eat at such times are usually loaded with sugar, calories, and preservatives, and unfortunately, low in essential nutrients. Healthy diets will boost your energy, mood, and outlook. If you have to live on a low budget, remember that you can still eat wholesome and affordable food, notwithstanding.
Get Enough Sleep
Not getting adequate and quality sleep can have negative impacts on your mood, energy, and ability to handle stress. You need seven to nine hours of sleep every night to be healthy and cope with the difficulties of daily life, as well as the negative effects of racism.
Find a Safe Place
It is important that we all have a safe place to retreat to after each day`s activities. It should be a place where you can relax, recharge, and not feel on edge for being a target of racism. The safe place for some may be their homes, while for others, it may be a religious institution, local library, or a recreational facility.
Some Mental Health Facts you Should Know
- A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts one`s thinking, mood, feeling, and ability to relate to others and keep up effectively with their daily functioning.
- Black males and females have relatively lower life expectancies than white males and females.
- Between 2013 and 2014, 42.4% of black males had high blood pressure, compared to 30.2% of white males. It was in the same period that 44% of black females also had the same condition compared to 28% of white females.
- A number of people believe that black people have a higher pain tolerance than white people.
- More than 43 million Americans struggle with mental illness.
- About 1 in every 5 young people aged 13-18 has or will develop a mental illness in their lifetime.
- Since 2012, there has been a gradual increase in youth depression rates.
- Depression symptoms in young people impact their performance in school, as well as interferes with personal relationships.
- A number of Americans refuse to access mental health treatment.
Mental illnesses can affect people of any race, age, religion, or social status.
- There are a number of factors that contribute to the development of mental health conditions, some of which are trauma, biological factors, a history of abuse, and a family history of mental illness.
- Studies show that about 50% of all mental illnesses show early signs before sufferers turn 14, while three-quarters of mental illnesses begin before age 24.
- About 1 in 4 adults living with severe mental illnesses also struggle with substance abuse.
- Depression is the major cause of disability worldwide.
- Studies show that members of the LGBTQ+ community are about thrice as likely to experience mental health conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder and major depression.
- Extreme mood swings, excessive worrying or fear, changes in eating habits, problems concentrating, and avoidance of friends, family, or social activities are common signs of mental health issues.
Now that you Know…
There have been many studies on racism in recent years, and they all point to the fact that people of affected communities suffer physical and mental stress from experiencing or witnessing racism. These studies go on to show the far-reaching effects of racism on the health of the victims. A number of them are vulnerable to chronic diseases and various mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. These effects are evident in victims of all ages.
It is to the advantage of affected communities to adopt coping mechanisms such as gaining the support of peers, forging a strong sense of racial identity, as well as talking about racist experiences. All these are super effective ways of keeping healthy physically and mentally. By all means, they`re also advised to avoid unhealthy soothing behaviors such as smoking, alcohol intake, and consuming unhealthful diets.