Racism can impact the mental health of the Black community in several ways. The following paragraphs will explore the issues that are especially relatable to Black expats:
1- Social alienation
In 2018, an article in the journal Frontiers Public Health titled “Cultural Diversity and Mental Health: Considerations for Policy and Practice”, the author, Dr Narayan Gopalkrishnan, says that racism can lead to social alienation. He says that this is because individuals experiencing racism can begin to have a fear of public spaces, which can then lead to a loss of access to services.
Human beings are social animals by nature. The loss of connection, interaction, and loneliness adversely affect mental health. This lack of a support system or an outlet for thoughts and feelings, as a result, can lead to stress.
As explained above, dealing with racism is a form of stress. One of the causes of hypertension is lack of sleep or having disturbed sleep. Studies have shown that the Black communities in different parts of the world are at increased risk of this condition. It can be inferred from the previously mentioned study that this occurs when Blacks are in the minority in the population.
For example, as a Black expat or tourist, it’s not unheard of to experience unsolicited contact, from having strangers touch your hair or skin, to having your photos taken without your consent. Black expats on social media platforms often discuss this phenomenon. Sometimes, being Black can feel like you are an attraction in a human museum.
According to the organisation, Mental Health UK, Psychosis is the medical term used to describe someone hearing, seeing, or believing things that other people do not. It’s used to describe an experience rather than a mental illness.
Not everyone experiences psychosis the same way. Mental Health UK says that some people may even find it comforting. However, for others, the symptoms disrupt daily life and make them feel tired, scared, or overwhelmed, and that such symptoms can go unnoticed or undiagnosed. In the article titled “Prevalence of Psychosis in Black Ethnic Minorities in Britain: Analysis Based on Three National Surveys”, by Tarik Qassem et al., published in the Social Psychiatry Psychiatric Epidemiology scientific journal, it says: “Racist attacks and perceived employer racism are associated with increased rates of psychosis in Black ethnic minorities.”
Depression is a condition that can occur due to medical or psychological problems, or intense reactions to life events. The American Psychiatric Association says that individuals with depression may experience a range of symptoms, ranging from changes in their appetites and fatigue to suicidal thoughts. There are different types of depression, but here are some examples of how it can manifest in Black mothers and children:
- According to some studies, Black mothers are more likely to experience postpartum depression. This may be explained by the fact that culture and/or circumstance (such as expat life or being in a population’s racial minority) can cause isolation and a lack of trust. All of this can result from social alienation.
- Black children are not spared either, as they can experience racist bullying. According to the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre website, racist bullying can occur in the following ways: racist remarks, threats, denying a student to play in a game, or damaging property. Harassment is more likely to happen in the hallways or classroom of schools. As a result, some teens who are bullied go on to develop depression.
5- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror. If a physical assault or aggressive verbalisation is part of a racist attack, PTSD can occur. Additionally, there is a school of thought that believes that racial trauma can also have epigenetic effects on people’s DNA and be passed down through generations. In fact, research findings by Dr Rachel Yehuda, professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the United States, point to this.