Author: Hope Leslie, BAME Wellbeing Assistant – read my bio at the end of the article
Social media has never been a more vital tool in raising awareness for both local and global injustices. Video and photographic documentation of racism can be decisive in calling out discrimination and shining a light on equalities that would otherwise go unnoticed. However, it is important to acknowledge that people within BAME communities, in particular Black people, may feel impacted by the proliferation of images and videos of racism, violence, and discrimination.
You should pay extra attention to your wellbeing when engaging with this online material. Whether you have chosen to engage or have encountered it unwillingly on your social media feed, it is important to think about how you can prioritise your own emotions and mental health.
You are not being dramatic or ‘making it about you’
Having an emotional reaction to incidents far removed from yourself is not an unreasonable response. To bear witness to these images and videos can prompt a person’s own experience with racial trauma (the accumulation of one’s experience of racism, micro-aggressions and discrimination over a lifetime that can affect one’s mental and physical health).
Give yourself permission to switch off
Perhaps you may feel obliged to continually engage with online activism because it is part of your identity. “It’s okay not to watch the latest video of brutality against people of colour. Just because you choose not to watch doesn’t mean you are ignoring what’s going on. It’s okay to turn off the news. It just means you know what you can and can’t emotionally handle. Removing yourself from a potential cause of trauma is just taking care of yourself by setting boundaries, and that’s healthy.” – Karen Attiah, Washington Post
It’s important to set boundaries with others and with yourself. Perhaps you are helping to educate others on a particular social topic surrounding race. It’s okay to limit the amount you do this if it means conserving your emotional labour and protecting your mental health. Remember, it is not your job to educate, Google exists. Maybe a friend wants to engage in a productive conversation about race and social injustices. It’s okay not to feel up to it sometimes and it’s okay to set those boundaries with friends and family. Lastly, you need to set boundaries with yourself. You should check in with yourself often to address your emotional state. If you need to, disengage from the conversation, switch off from social media and give yourself time for self-love and healing.
Just as setting boundaries is important. You should also make sure you are reaching out to other people to help you build and maintain a healthy support network. It might be worth reaching out to a peer from a similar BAME background. Perhaps they have also experienced micro-aggressions or have felt isolated before? Sometimes it can be nice to have a conversation where the other person inherently understands that which you would normally have to spend time explaining. Just make sure you are both aware of and respect each other’s boundaries. You can also feel connected to BAME communities through the media. Here is a list of podcasts to help you feel connected.
Check-in through mindfulness
Sometimes it can be hard to help ourselves when we’re not even sure what the problem is. Practicing mindfulness can help us identify our thoughts and feelings and help us to live and appreciate the present moment. Check out these resources of ways to help you be mindful in the moment. Additionally, here is a list of podcasts run by people of colour to help you be more mindful of your mental wellbeing. Remember, mindfulness and activism are not mutually exclusive practices. If you are struggling to balance the two things in your life? You might want to check out the book ‘Pleasure Activism’ by Adrienne Maree Brown.
Self-care can be a tricky one to get your head around, as many people, especially those from BAME backgrounds, can confuse self-care with self-indulgence. It is worth acknowledging that self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. “When you’re dealing with something like racial trauma, that is so disorganising and so catastrophic, it’s grounding and restorative to literally feed your body with food, with exercise, with proper rest, with restorative and affirming voices around you. Those things are very, very important because again, we have to take our power back. And in this world, where there’s so little we can do in terms of dismantling systems, it’s such a slow process, we can decide how to take care of our bodies and to remove our bodies from certain spaces and lean into certain spaces.” – Dr Leavell-Bruce, Nutritious Life.
Where can you go for support?
There are lots of places you can go to at the University if you need support. If you have experienced racism or discrimination you can seek confidential, specialist support by requesting to speak to an advisor through Report and Support. The team provides holistic, trauma-informed advice and support to students who have experienced these issues on campus and you can also request to speak to someone of a BAME background if that would make you feel more comfortable. You can also access the University Counselling and Mental Health Service, who offer a wide range of support including workshops, groups and a host of mental health resources. You can ring up and request a counsellor from a BAME background before an appointment and the counselling service will try their best to meet your requirements. You can also contact the 24-hour mental health helpline where you can talk to trained advisors for advice and support on any issue big and small. For general queries surrounding your wellbeing and how to access support, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi, I’m Hope!
I’m the BAME Student Wellbeing Assistant here at the University. I also graduated from Manchester in July after studying English.
I work with students from across the BAME community to ensure that we can be more inclusive of BAME students’ experience and responsive to the support needs of those across the different communities.