‘We suffer disproportionately, are we able to care disproportionately in response to that?’ how we make mental health a priority in the ends
When talking about working class communities of colour, we often discuss how we have more to contend with than mainstream society: we’re disproportionately represented in mental health detention, under treated, over diagnosed. We talk about discrimination and imperialism and how exactly these things take a toll on our minds. And we talk often about these things as experiential, lived-experience knowledge: we know this stuff and this knowledge is often borne from the average everyday person, at the community level. From our experiences, from self-teaching, from community groups — rather than at the ‘professional’, scientific, academic level. Although both ways of knowing are important, I often wonder if we sometimes get too caught up wondering about what our communities and average people need to do differently, as if we’re not already coming up with knowledge and perhaps already have our hands full. Maybe more of our questioning should be of the professionals and the scientific community, those who are supposedly able to integrate these knowledges.
Nonetheless, despite this warning, this piece is a rumination on what changes can be made in working class communities of colour – aka ‘the ends’. As a response to our struggle, it’s important for us to build protective factors and resilience as much as we’re able to, even though there’s only a certain portion of this that’s in our control. To understand what to do is personal. Psychologist and therapist Guilaine Kinouani, author of Living While Black: The Essential Guide To Overcoming Racial Trauma, says that racial trauma vulnerability is different for different people and is influenced by protective factors such as self-esteem, availability of spaces to process racist experiences, social support, etc. So trying to make space in our lives to improve our self-esteem and having spaces to process our racist experiences — these are practices we should prioritise. I don’t know what the ‘ends’ consensus on self-care is, I know some people have the perception that it’s bubble baths and cups of tea, but I see it as a philosophy of making responsible and wise choices, forming attitudes about the self and others and the world in order to improve our lives. All of the things that we do in life can potentially be a source of either strength or stress or both. In caring for ourselves we might prioritise looking after all of the different facets of our lives — personally, I focus on spiritual well-being a lot as I find that that’s my natural inclination, but there’s sociocultural, environmental, physical and other factors depending on who you are. We also, as Guilaine suggests, need to create spaces to encourage processing of our experiences and openness. So, how do we have conversations in the ends in an interesting way and how and how do we mould these conversations so that they apply to each of us? Because even though I don’t think stigma is a problem unique to our communities, because we suffer disproportionately, in an ideal world we would care disproportionately in response to that.
These are some questions and unfinished thoughts that have come up during Psychology of the Ends live stream sessions (currently on hiatus). For more, visit the YouTube channel or for much more detailed and rich exploration of these topics, check out some of the sources below:
- Guilaine Kinouani — Living While Black: The Essential Guide To Overcoming Racial Trauma
- Race Reflections — racereflections.co.uk
- Robert Carter — Racism and Psychological and Emotional Injury
- Joy DeGruy — Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome
- Suman Fernando — Institutional Racism in Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology
- Frantz Fanon — Black Skin, White Masks
- Lillian Comas-Diaz — Racial Trauma: Theory, Research and Healing (Paper)
- Dr Yusef Bakkali — Dying to live: Youth Violence and the munpain (Paper)