Mental Health And People of Color

Opinion| Racism and Mental Health

"When you're woke, it becomes hard to go to sleep."
- Random Acts of Flyness (Episode 6)
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"When you're woke, it becomes hard to go to sleep."
- Random Acts of Flyness (Episode 6)

"Are you staying here?"

A seemingly innocent question. Yes, I was wearing a conference lanyard. Yes, I was performing the role "scholar at a conference" fairly well (laptop clutched under arm, pen held in hand, body wrapped in socially acceptable business attire, etc.) however, a member of the hotel staff still felt the need to question my existence in this 5-star hotel.

Before being pushed into a new state of awakening of the sheer violence that is life as a Black person, I would have smiled and simply answered her question. But not now. Now that I am aware of the many faces that racism has taken (historically) and the way my Black body looks against a White background, I have entered a place of hyper-racilization. Microagressions and odd questions from aversive racists sear through my skin leave scars. The scar burns when I'm alone with my thoughts in the shower wondering "what did she mean by that?" The branding infiltrates my cognitive spaces as I replay the moment 10-15 times trying to better understand the situation. I am not okay.

More literature is being dedicated to examining the role that racism and discrimination plays in emotional and psychological distress. Studies have shown that racism has the potential to increase the risk of stress, cold symptoms, cardiovascular disease, mortality, and depression.

An article by the American Psychological Association based on a meta-analytic study that examined perceived racism and mental health asserted that: "For Black American adults, perceived racism may cause mental health symptoms similar to trauma and could lead to some physical health disparities between blacks and other populations in the United States."

Researchers examined 66 studies for a total sample of 18,140 Black adults in the United States. According to the study, Black Americans' psychological responses to racism are very similar to common responses to trauma, such as somatization, interpersonal sensitivity and anxiety.

In a separate study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, a sociocultural model of stress and coping was tested in a sample of 215 African Americans. The study found that race-related stress was a significantly more powerful risk factor than stressful life events for psychological distress.

Even when Black Americans are not personally on the receiving end of racism, social media feeds are full of images and videos of brutalized, bleeding, battered, Black bodies. There is video footage of White officers punching a Black child and pulling up her shorts to expose her as she is pinned down. There is video footage of a white officers straddling a Black teenager outside of her community pool. For activist (or aware individuals in general), third-party sources and first-person experiences of race-based trauma create a violent accumulation of negative mental outcomes.

They will not be linked here because the purpose of this discourse is to go beyond consuming Black pain and death. If you feel inclined, a simple google search can give you access to hundreds of pornographic images and videos of our violation.

Black Americans are constantly faced with the reality that their lives are not protected.


Licensed clinical psychologist Monnica Williams studies the epidemiology of PTSD in minorities and explains that it can be incredibly traumatic for people of color, particularly African American children to see Black death in the form of these violent police encounters. In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Williams studies the link between racism and post-traumatic stress disorder, which is known as race-based traumatic stress injury, or the emotional distress a person may feel after encountering racial harassment or hostility. Williams acknowledges that race-based stress reactions can be triggered by events that are experienced vicariously, or externally, through a third party — like social media or national news events.


This opinion piece is to make people aware of the psychological toll that racism and racialization has on racialized subjects. From a personal standpoint, I am looking for ways to silence the pain and panic attacks. I urge others to prioritize self care and healing as well.

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I Weigh Over 200 Lbs And You Can Catch Me In A Bikini This Summer

There is no magic number that determines who can wear a bikini and who cannot.
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It is about February every year when I realize that bikini season is approaching. I know a lot of people who feel this way, too. In pursuit of the perfect "summer body," more meals are prepped and more time is spent in the gym. Obviously, making healthier choices is a good thing! But here is a reminder that you do not have to have a flat stomach and abs to rock a bikini.

Since my first semester of college, I've weighed over 200 pounds. Sometimes way more, sometimes only a few pounds more, but I have not seen a weight starting with the number "1" since the beginning of my freshman year of college.

My weight has fluctuated, my health has fluctuated, and unfortunately, my confidence has fluctuated. But no matter what, I haven't allowed myself to give up wearing the things I want to wear to please the eyes of society. And you shouldn't, either.

I weigh over 200lbs in both of these photos. To me, (and probably to you), one photo looks better than the other one. But what remains the same is, regardless, I still chose to wear the bathing suit that made me feel beautiful, and I'm still smiling in both photos. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't wear because of the way you look.

There is no magic number that equates to health. In the second photo (and the cover photo), I still weigh over 200 lbs. But I hit the gym daily, ate all around healthier and noticed differences not only on the scale but in my mood, my heart health, my skin and so many other areas. You are not unhealthy because you weigh over 200 lbs and you are not healthy because you weigh 125. And, you are not confined to certain clothing items because of it, either.

This summer, after gaining quite a bit of weight back during the second semester of my senior year, I look somewhere between those two photos. I am disappointed in myself, but ultimately still love my body and I'm proud of the motivation I have to get to where I want to be while having the confidence to still love myself where I am.

And if you think just because I look a little chubby that I won't be rocking a bikini this summer, you're out of your mind.

If YOU feel confident, and if YOU feel beautiful, don't mind what anybody else says. Rock that bikini and feel amazing doing it.

Cover Image Credit: Sara Petty

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The Lazy Girl's Guide To The Gym

Also, everything else you should know if you're a slightly out-of-shape girl (like me).

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With my freshman year coming to an end, I realized a lot of things. I made new friends, I found new hobbies, and I learned a lot of lessons. One of them being that the "Freshman 15" is very real and very scary.

While my friends and family have attempted multiple times to convince me that I'm just being dramatic (I am), I still want to make a change in my lifestyle or I will, in all seriousness, be on track to the "Sophomore 20".

Here is a list of my best gym and healthy lifestyle tips that I am slowly attempting to live by this summer in order to resurrect Emily's 18-year-old body and health.

1. Increase water intake.

2. Find a gym buddy.

3. Start off with cardio.

4. Don't stop on your cardio until you're dripping in sweat.

5. Chug a LOT of water an hour before the gym.

Do not do it right before, or you will be in pain.

6. Eat light beforehand but just enough to hold you over. 

7. Plan out what your routine will be BEFORE you get there.

My routine: Elliptical for a mile, Stairmaster for 10 minutes, ab HIIT workout for 10 minutes, 5 more minutes on Stairmaster.

8. Buy healthy foods while you're feeling motivated.

9. Find a gym that isn't too far from your house. 

10. Don't get mad at yourself if you don't see results in a day.

I know this is a hard one.

11. Try fitness classes. 

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