Unwelcome, lonely or isolated
Especially if people or organisations have said or implied that you don't belong.
Anxious, fearful and unsafe
You may worry about how people are going to perceive and treat you. You might feel visibly different and vulnerable when you are around lots of people of a different race. You may spend time thinking about how you'll protect yourself before entering certain spaces.
Angry or frustrated
Particularly if you're being treated unfairly, and if you feel powerless to control it.
All kinds of racism can contribute to stress. This might be events such as sudden, unexpected abuse from another person. But it can also be a more long-term impact of encountering regular microaggressions. Or from the ongoing effects of systemic racism on your life. This can partly help explain links between racism and physical health problems, like increased blood pressure.
Unusual and strange
Especially if people highlight, mock or criticise things that are 'different' about you. This process of making you feel as if you don't fit society's norms is sometimes called being 'othered'.
Confused or unsure about whether you've experienced racism
This is especially true if others ignore or deny your experiences. It can make you question your reality. This is sometimes referred to as racial gaslighting.
Forced to suppress how you feel
You may find that you can't show or even fully feel your natural responses to your experiences. To avoid more abuse, and keep yourself safe, you may feel like you must not react to racism. This can leave you feeling numb, or mean that the experience stays with you for a long time.
Overwhelmed or worn down
You may encounter racism regularly in lots of different parts of your life. This can have a cumulative effect on your mental health. You may feel surrounded by racism.
Ways to support your mental health
Therapy and counselling
This involves talking things through with a professional and can give you space to explore difficult feelings and experiences, including racism.
There's no specific recommended therapy for racial trauma but you might find it helpful to explore
different types of talking therapy
treatment and support for trauma
treatment for post traumatic stress disorder
Different people find different therapies helpful at different times and the relationship you build with your therapist matters a lot. Whether they understand racism and are culturally competent can make a big difference to how helpful therapy can be.
Connecting and sharing with others who have similar experiences can be very helpful. You might want to meet people who share your experiences of mental health problems, or racism, or both.
To find a peer support group:
our peer support pages are a great starting point
Hub of Hope lets you search for local services near you, including support groups
Rethink's online support group directory shows any groups they have in your area
Side by Side is national Mind's supportive online community where you can feel at home talking about your mental health and experiences.
Talk to someone you trust
Speaking to someone who understands racism can be helpful. It may be that having someone listen to you and show they care can help in itself.
You may want to speak to someone you know. Or you might feel more comfortable speaking to someone you don't know.
Build your self esteem
Try and take time to praise yourself and think about what you're proud of. For example, you could think about your character traits, skills or things you’ve done.
Celebrate your identity
You could spend time thinking about what makes you happy and what you value in life. For example, you could think about any activities you enjoy or people you like spending time with.
This may help you get to know yourself and challenge racist assumptions about who you are – and who you aren't.
You may also find it helpful to connect with people who share your racial identity, to enjoy and celebrate your culture.
Try mindfulness and relaxation
Mindfulness is a technique you can learn. It involves making a special effort to notice what's happening in the present moment – without judging anything. It aims to help you feel calmer, manage your thoughts, and be kinder towards yourself.
You don't have to be spiritual, or have any particular beliefs, to try it.
Getting creative can help you express thoughts and feelings that are weighing on your mind. You could use dancing, making music, painting, poetry, writing or any other creative activity.
Look after your physical health
Experiencing racism can affect our body as well as our mind. Physical health and mental health are connected, so looking after one can boost both.
Being active doesn't have to mean doing sports or going to the gym a lot – although that works well for some people. But there are plenty of things you could try and at any level of fitness or ability.
You may also find that spending time in nature helps improve your physical health and your mood.
Take care with social media and the news
Seeing news stories or social media content about racism might sometimes make you feel anxious or overwhelmed. In this case, you could think about switching off or limiting what you look at for a while.
If a particular person on your social media is upsetting you, think about blocking them to give yourself space.
Remember, racist abuse or bullying online could be a hate crime. If you see racist abuse happen online
you could report the user to the site if it’s moderated
you can report hate crimes to the police using the True Vision website
you might be able to report it through Stop Hate UK
Be kind to yourself
You may find that examining your experiences is helpful at some times, but not all the time.
It can be good to spend a while sitting with your experiences but it's also ok to try and take a break from thinking about them when this feels useful.
Try to treat yourself the way you would treat a friend and give yourself space when you need it.
Remember, different things work at different times for different people. If you've tried something and it hasn't helped, try to be gentle and patient with yourself. Over time, you might develop your own tips too.
What you can do
Speak to the service about your concerns
By reaching out and sharing your views, the service can reflect, learn and do better. If speaking to them informally doesn't get outcome you need, you can take things further.
Make a formal complaint
It’s illegal for UK healthcare providers to discriminate based on your race. If you think you've been discriminated against, you can make a complaint.
We know that complaining might not always feel like a safe or effective option. If you're unsure, call us on 01642 257020 for advice and we can help provide information about the laws related to mental health.
Find an advocate
Advocacy means getting support from another person to help you express yourself and stand up for your rights. Someone who helps you in this way is called your advocate.
Our advocacy team can support you.
Get support from specialist organisations
Knowing there is somewhere to turn where you’ll be listened to and supported makes a big difference. Here are some organisations we know can help
Our community outreach team is also here to support you