Racism and my mental health
"Nobody has any right to discriminate against you based on your race or ethnicity. Ever." Our Activist Luke, 15, shares how his experience of racism has affected his mental health.
What actually is racism?
Racism is the act of discriminating or bullying someone due to their race or ethnicity. Racism comes in big and small forms, from name-calling and stereotyping to bullying and targeting. Racism is a big problem in our society and is affecting so many people internationally.
My family are from the Caribbean, specifically a small island close to Barbados, which makes me living in England part of a black minority ethnic group, which is sometimes referred to as BME.
Growing up in a place where a lot of the population are white is more difficult than someone might think. Throughout my early years of school, I suffered a lot of name-calling coming from the other students and, over time, this did have a huge toll on my mental wellbeing. When I switched to secondary school, I experienced a lot of bullying due to my race. It was almost as if they had interpreted my personality and actions based on the colour of my skin. This actually led to me wishing I was white.
I felt so depressed and almost worthless in myself because of my skin colour. I never spoke to anyone about this which I think made me feel worse. This contributed to a lot of anxiety and depression for me.
How I managed these feelings
After a while, I went to the doctor and asked for their guidance. They referred me to CAMHS and I started short-term counselling followed by medication for my mental health. This helped me with my emotions, but I still felt off. I felt out of place. I felt like this for about two weeks, until I had a realisation: I can’t change my skin colour. I can wish and wish that I was white to avoid racism from other people but I can never change my ethnicity.
This was when I decided I shouldn't feel ashamed of who I am - nobody should ever feel ashamed of who they are. We should feel proud to be us. It was almost an instant turnaround for me. Once I found that motivation, I stopped wishing I was white. I kept this message in my head: “I am me and nobody can ever change that. If they want to hate, well that’s negativity I have the power to remove from my life.”
Black Lives Matter
Most of us will have seen or heard about the racist incidents happening in the USA recently, which have resulted in innocent people losing their lives. These are examples of racism in the most severe form. Racism is not ok. There is never a legitimate reason to be racist.
There is currently a huge discrepancy in racial equality which is why I think it’s really important that we battle racism, so that everyone can live without fear or prejudice. If you do want to support the fight against racism, there are charities you can donate to or even just sharing a post will help spread awareness.
If you're experiencing racism
You are not alone. Nobody has any right to discriminate against you based on your race or ethnicity. Ever.
If you are experiencing racism, try and talk to someone. It always helps to have another person aware of what is happening and what you're feeling. If you’re experiencing racism online, reporting it is perfectly reasonable and the right thing to do because racial discrimination is illegal.
Remember, the pigment in your skin shouldn’t determine how you are treated. You deserve love and respect.
Author: Luke, 15
Where to get support
Have a look at our page on racism and mental health for more information on how experiencing racism can affect our mental health, and where you can go for support.