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Breaking down race barriers for better mental health

Shout 85258 Mental Health Clinician Amanda, reflects on her own experiences and discusses why it’s important to celebrate differences and reach out for support if you need it.

‘Playing the race card’ reminds me of the joker in a pack of playing cards. I didn’t really understand the meaning of the joker card until watching how card games could be played, and it was only then that I learnt just how beneficial or dangerous this one card could be. What I also reflect on is my innocence or naivety at the power of this card, which suggests that perhaps the most important aspect here are the understandings and intentions of the person possessing the joker card.

In recent months we have been forced to once again encounter difficult conversations and experiences relating to race and ethnicity, and the notion of the ‘race card’ has resurfaced.

Having had to grapple with a range of internal and external opinions through social media platforms, conversations with family and learning the truth about some friends, I have come to believe that we all, in fact, ‘play the race card’ at times.

This might sound strange, but hang with me for a little while longer. We all have a racial identity that includes us in some groups and excludes us from others. This identity can be seen as our superpower, or sometimes sadly, our nemesis. If we go back to my earlier point of the joker card, this ‘race card’ can be seen as either an advantage or a game-changer - it’s about the mindset and intentions of the card holder.

Race, ethnicity and heritage are some of the qualities which make us unique, interesting and contributors to a world of colour and culture. Such differences should be celebrated: our cards in life should be our game-changers!

So why do we often feel that we’ve been dealt a bad hand?

The ‘race card’ implies that I am not allowed to challenge what offends me, speak out about the injustices I see, experience the anxieties of the threats against my cultural identity or own the deep-rooted emotions that I carry on behalf of myself and multiple generations.

But, something has happened this year…

In this current climate, we have been learning so much more about ourselves and others. We have been exposed to the Covid-19 pandemic and had to confront heightened racial tensions like many of us have never experienced before, and actually, whilst it’s been a traumatic time for us all, something beautiful has happened. We’ve learnt that we all have the shared experience of vulnerability. We have all had to muster the strength within to find new ways to cope and new levels of understanding and acceptance, and often, we’ve done this together.

One huge breakthrough has been our acknowledgement of just how rife inequality and injustice still are. On the positive side, it’s heart-warming to learn that many in our society want to break down the barriers to a more equal and just future. One barrier is in understanding just how psychologically damaging racial tensions have been. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have often found myself silenced or even worse, explaining away my experiences, emotions and behaviours at the fear of being stereotyped as ‘playing the race card’ - so I have often retreated within.

But now wider conversations are taking place in regards to the cards that we all have been dealt in life. Your hand includes your race… so play your hand with confidence and positivity and be a game-changer!

At Shout 85258 we understand just how important it is that everyone has the opportunity to feel heard, supported and valued for who they are. We also understand that finding your voice starts with having a safe, non-judgmental, confidential place where you can build up trust and share your experiences with someone who cares, actively listens and wants to support you.

If you are finding things difficult, if experience of racism is impacting your mental health, you don’t have to cope alone.

Text SHOUT to 85258 to start a conversation. We’re here for you 24/7. You don’t have to face it alone.

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