Navigating Mental Illness During a Civil Rights Movement.
The murder of George Floyd sparked an unprecedented civil rights movement and has changed our country dramatically. The face of the Internet has been completely reshaped, and discourse about racism is at the forefront of all of our conversations. Sometimes, especially for the mentally ill, the amount of information whizzing by is overwhelming.
Confronting Mental Health During a Civil Rights Movement
The other day, I was scrolling through my many Facebook groups. Being autistic and queer makes online friendships easier than real-life ones. In a non-binary mental health group, I came across a post like this:
“I hope that someone can agree with me on this. I am autistic, and I feel like I don’t have enough mental spoons to deal with educating myself about Black Lives Matter. Can someone help me?”
I have seen multiple posts like this. While many of the comments were empathetic to her struggle, we all made a point to encourage her to take some time to use coping skills, regain some mental energy, and to educate herself anyway.
Mental Illness Is Not an Excuse for Ignorance
The commenter responded positively to constructive criticism, but what she said offended me. Autism is not an excuse to not be educated on issues regarding race. Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) experience mental illness, and they do not have the luxury of ignoring racism.
As a group that experiences oppression, those in the disabled and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc. (LGBT+) communities should be especially empathetic toward racism, even though we will never understand it. White people have to have tough conversations to eliminate racism from our culture.
Alex Jenny, who is known as the “Drag Therapist” on Instagram, shared that White people ask her:
“What if I want to be an ally but I’m mentally ill and traumatized?”
“Here is my response as a trauma therapist and anti-oppression educator: It’s time y’all seriously take a look at ways to increase your stress tolerance and emotional regulating skills, if not for your own healing, then for the cause. Mental illness and PTSD is not an excuse.
“It is a very real barrier, yes, AND it is something that can be worked on... Black people are being actively and acutely traumatized continually and are still showing up to fight because they have no other alternatives. So no, mental illness does not give you an excuse to disengage completely.”
Coping Skills for Activists
White people are going to feel uncomfortable during this time. A major cultural shift and confronting our racist behaviors can cause us collective grief and stress. But none of us have to learn alone.
Here are some ways that you can recharge your batteries during this time of upheaval and preventing burnout that was provided by Vahini on Instagram:
- Identify your feelings, whether that is anxiety, guilt, or pessimism.
- Talk to a trusted confidant, whether that’s a therapist or a friend.
- Find healthy outlets and work on coping mechanisms that give you a sense of relief and fulfillment.
- Learn when to step back.
Many others are in this fight with you, and your voice matters. The tough conversations that we are having will push us forward into a better future.
Queue, A. (2020, June 15). Navigating Mental Illness During a Civil Rights Movement., HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/thelifelgbt/2020/6/navigating-mental-illness-during-a-civil-rights-movement