Juneteenth And Mental Health
June 11, 2023
As the name might imply, Juneteenth is the commemoration of the 19th of June. On this day in 1865, General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas to proclaim the emancipation of African Americans from slavery. As this was the last state to enforce emancipation, it also effectively made slavery illegal across all of the United States of America. This is the spirit of Juneteenth – celebrating the freedom of African Americans from the oppression of white slave owners.
Throughout the years, Juneteenth celebrations have seen growth but, unfortunately, they faced strong opposition as well. The first celebrations spread from Texas across southern states and, eventually, across all of the USA. In the early 20th century, these celebrations were restricted by increasingly suffocating segregation laws. While slavery was illegal, these new laws restricted the rights of black people in virtually every aspect of their lives. Through constant community strength, protests and relentless fighting, black people were able to secure rights equal to white people, and Juneteenth celebrations were renewed once again.
While the Juneteenth celebration is centred around the USA, black history in the UK had similar trials and tribulations. The Slavery Abolition Act was proclaimed in 1833, but equal rights were only enriched with the Race Relations Act of 1965. More recently, both UK and USA saw large Black Lives Matter protests carried out against police brutality, systematic racism, and glorification of slave owners. After more than 150 years since Juneteenth, black people continue to show never-ending perseverance in the fight for equality.
In the current age, the disenfranchisement of black people comes through physical and mental health inequalities experienced by people of colour. Research by The King’s Fund found that black people are reported to have poorer experiences using health services, higher rates of infant and maternal mortality, and higher rates of diabetes. The causality of health inequalities is difficult to determine, but socioeconomic oppression and structural racism are implicated in perpetuating this inequality.
In relation to mental health, research shows that black adults are more likely to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and symptoms of psychosis. PTSD is known to relate to lower socioeconomic positions and is in line with inequalities faced by the black population. The socioeconomic inequalities are being progressively improved but it is important to address this mental health disparity now. There are potential preventative interventions for PTSD : talking about your feelings and reactions to stress, undertaking de-stressing activities, journaling your thoughts, meditation and yoga.
Mindfulness practices specifically have been shown to improve the quality of life in people of colour and help to relieve racism-related stress. As mindfulness is a state of being and awareness, it does not have a set of instructions that must be followed to achieve it. For people starting on their mindfulness journey, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a good induction to understanding and practising mindfulness. However, it is possible to achieve mindfulness through watching videos, listening to podcasts, and performing meditative actions. Practising mindfulness with these aids builds up confidence until you are able to enter the state of mindfulness while doing mundane chores, such as laundry. There are multiple resources on Mindsum to help you achieve this skilled state of meditation.
In some cases, mindfulness meditation has shown effectiveness in managing symptoms of psychosis. The underpinning factors for increased instances of psychosis in black people are still being investigated. According to a study conducted by UCL in 2020, the rates of psychotic disorders can be up to five times higher in ethnic minority groups in the UK when compared to white counterparts. However, this increased rate is not seen in countries with black majority populations, such as Caribbean countries. Some precipitating factors for psychosis include socioeconomic status, language differences, and cultural differences. These factors work two-fold: they increase the feelings of disempowerment in minority ethnic groups while also increasing the chances of being misunderstood and misdiagnosed by white clinicians. The cultural differences are being continuously recognised by mental health clinicians, and Equality Diversity and Inclusion training is being continuously rolled out across healthcare and academic institutions.
As we continue to identify and improve the inequalities faced by black people, it is also important to recognise the many achievements that have been made in this battle. To commemorate this Juneteenth celebration, let’s celebrate the perseverance that black people have shown throughout history and the perseverance they continue to show. Here in Mindsum, we are dedicated to Equality, Diversion and Inclusion, to ensure the most effective and compassionate support for everyone. You can book a free initial consultation with Mindsum through our online service.
For anyone struggling with feelings of disempowerment or lack of belonging, there are a range of mental health resources that work to support and empower people of colour:
Young Black Men Programme – this is a programme established by Mind Charity to support young black men aged 11 to 30 years old.
Black Noir – a non-profit organisation which organises LGBTQ+ people of colour social spaces and events.
Young Minds Guide – This guide provides advice for individuals who may have discrimination, racism, or hate crimes, and how to report it.