Racism has been an ongoing issue, especially in the United States. We see many heartbreaking videos of Asian and black people being attacked for their skin color. Aside from the physical attacks, the negative impacts of racism on mental health must also be taken seriously.
Why? Because racism is a form of bullying, and many times, bullying leaves emotional and mental scars on its victims.
The trauma and experiences caused by racism can lead to serious mental health issues, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Every day, people of color go through racial inequity at work, school, in the neighborhood, and community.
Do you experience racial discrimination and are concerned about your mental health? Read further. This article will give you insights into the issues surrounding mental health conditions and racism.
Here’s a fact. Did you know that in 2018 in New York City, 88% of the police stops made by the NYPD involved African Americans? How about the fact that White patients in US hospitals get better health care than Hispanic, African-American, and Asian patients?
In addition, one study found that white Americans are more likely to get hired than black applicants? Not all companies or institutions like law enforcement or the health care system do this, and it may not be a conscious choice for those who do. Unfortunately, it still happens, and racism because of skin color is still lurking in the shadows.
White people get discriminated against, too. British people being stereotyped as not having the most attractive teeth is common. Statements like “all white people are racist” is also a racist stereotype because not all are. Here are the types and examples of racial inequity:
Prejudice and overt bias refer to the belief that one race is superior to the other. For example. many people believe that those from first world countries are far superior to those in third world countries.
The movie Hidden Figures starring Taraji Henson and Kevin Costner is a great example of prejudice and overt bias. The smart and talented black women working for NASA had separate office buildings and bathrooms and were unequally treated. The film depicts the prejudice and overt bias in the ’60s, which was brought about by the wrong belief that white people are more valuable than black Americans.
Stereotyping is making a judgment about someone because of their race, skin color, or ethnicity. Racial profiling is the most common type of stereotyping. Saying that all Asians are good at math and love to eat rice, that all black Americans love to eat fried chicken and drink Kool-Aid, or that white Americans love to eat hamburgers is racial profiling.
This type of stereotyping may not sound like a big deal for some. Some people may find it funny, but racial profiling is offensive to others and may affect their mental health.
Remember that your race or skin color doesn’t define you. Stereotypes exist in cultures and countries as a whole, and whatever you do, it’s somehow planted in the minds of other people.
Then there’s the more subtle form of discrimination, like turning away job applicants or overlooking certain employees for promotion because of their skin color. Or banks not granting mortgage loans to Mexicans. It happens everywhere, in supermarkets, malls, restaurants, schools, or the workplace.
What Are the Common Mental Health Problems Caused by Racism?
We don’t get to see news about racism all the time but believe that it’s happening every day. You may be an American citizen by birth, but if you have a different skin color, you can be a target of racism regardless of your age. The negative emotions and grudges that pile up can affect the mental health status of a person. Here are some of the common mental illnesses faced by people who experience racism:
- Depression: The most common mental health issue due to racism is depression, regardless of the person’s age. Racism comes in many different forms. A study shows that African Americans experience racism 1–5 times a day, every day. Facing this every day can affect a person’s self-esteem and cause depression.
- Anxiety Disorders: Experiencing racism may cause anxiety disorders. Those who experience racism get anxious when interacting with people of a different color because they’re afraid it might happen again.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A person who experienced some kind of traumatic physical attack because of racism may develop PTSD. You may have heard of the news about an old Asian woman attacked in San Francisco who fought back after she was attacked, sending the attacker to the hospital. The woman was physically hurt from the attack and is now experiencing PTSD.
- Substance Use Disorders: Due to poor coping skills caused by racism, others may resort to drinking alcohol excessively or using illegal drugs.
- Suicidal Thoughts: Prolonged depression without getting help from a mental health professional may lead to suicidal thoughts.
Unfortunately, mental health inequities exist, where minority groups or black people have poor access to mental health resources. There’s also the stigma of seeking mental help being a barrier.
For example, black men see it as a sign of weakness or a personal failure to seek mental help treatment. Rather than seeking mental help, others bottle up their feelings or resort to alcohol. It’s also sad to know that in the US mental health system, there are only a few minorities or black mental health professionals in the country. Studies show that a patient may be incorrectly diagnosed due to cultural indifference and mental health disparities.
If it’s causing you too much anxiety or stress, try to turn a blind eye to racist comments and negative words. Also, try to learn healthy coping skills for these stressors to take care of your mental health.
You can’t control what other people might say or do, but you can certainly take control of your life and mental well-being. Rise above all the negativity and prove to them that your skin color does not define who you are.
If you’re having issues with racism and feel like it’s already impacting your mental health, seek therapy right away. Mental health care is essential, so schedule an appointment with Kentucky Counseling Center. We have many mental health professionals who can discuss the issues of racism and mental health. They can help you heal and rise above an imperfect system that continues to discriminate against people based on their race or skin color.