As a black woman I must protect my mental health and take a break from the news

Escapism is a necessity for most of us.

It allows us to wind down from our day-to-day lives, provide momentary relief at times of great difficulty and even be the one small glimmer of happiness in a sea of sorrow – and for many black people, we’ve felt the need to do this more and more every day.

The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd – three black lives brutally taken away – have sparked protests around the world and launched a global uprising that has flooded every aspect of society.

Videos of Floyd’s violent and unjust death have circulated from Twitter to WhatsApp, while articles and social media posts describing the deaths of Taylor and Arbery and protests for justice continue to remind us of what we already know – that anti-blackness is global. Black lives are undervalued and the fight for us to be seen, heard and live continues.

As a black woman, it’s important for me to remain engaged and keep protesting and fighting. But when the news cycle is a collage of images displaying black people being killed and words upon words about black deaths at the hands of police brutality, it becomes harder and harder to consume that information on a daily basis.

There is no doubt that this will have an untold affect on our mental health – but the option to not consume is equally challenging and can instil a level of guilt because you want to support those who’ve lost their lives.

I, like many, have struggled to navigate the news cycle and social media. I spend time scrolling through feeds and taking it all in – my blood boiling, jaw clenched and pretty much on the brink of tears at every passing image of Floyd, Taylor, Arbery and the many black victims of the global and historical pandemic of racism.

The frustration is amplified when I see news, which paints protestors as aggressive rioters without considering their rights and reasons to be angry, or highlighting the peaceful protests that have also taken place. Or when media outlets still uphold and protect the police with their framing of headlines and anti-Black Lives Matter takes on what’s going on right now.

We’re expected to deal with police brutality, racism, discrimination and keep strong at all times.

The consumption of this news is paired with social media – a place where we are seeing voices being lifted, but also witnessing the harsh reality of what’s happening on the ground.

Whether it’s a video showing a police car ramming into protestors or a man threatening protestors with a bow and arrow – we are consistently witnessing images of weariness to resilience, agony and even apathy, and it all can take its toll.

We’re expected to deal with police brutality, racism, discrimination and keep strong at all times. But no one is built or expected to withstand that except us and there are moments when we need to step back for our own sake.

The historical and very present trauma of oppression and white supremacy can pull us to the ground. But it’s important that we get back up and, in order to do so, we have to preserve our mental health as we carry around this intergenerational wound every single day and that may require balance.

Instead of checking social media constantly, set a maximum time limit you’ll spend on certain apps. Limit the amount of filmed content you watch or decide which form of news is best for you to digest.

Find resources that can inform and help you like www.blackmindsmatteruk.com and like me, follow Instagram platforms including Healing While Black or Black Mental Wellness. Paint, read, listen to music – escape for just a moment.

Whatever it is that works for you, do it. It’s easy to feel the need to remain engaged at all times, but you are no less supportive by taking a minute to recharge. Black mental health matters and we are experiencing the biggest attack on it right now, so do what you have to stay healthy and keep the fight going.

After all, we deserve to take these moments off, because we never get a real break from it all.

That’s the reality of being black – there is no escape. So if you need a moment to realign, regroup and protect your mental space, do just that. Take time for yourself because the daily grind of it all never really stops.

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