A Poem on Race & Mental Health by Coco Majari
In the absence of the proper words, we call each other and say everything but the things we know need saying. We do not say, it hurts to be sometimes. There are words out there for the things we feel, the way our minds turn into war zones but we do not know them. And if we do, we cannot speak them. We have inherited silence and the pain that comes with it.The malleable infectious illness that moves when you move and moves you until you know nothing but. They say it is mental health and that there is no shame in it. We know shame and so we call it perfectionism, call it a bad day, call it anything but it’s name. We hear, from people meaning well that our parents did not struggle for us to be anything but the best. So we talk about the hustle and getting to the top. When that fails, we cut our hair and pierce our ears and tattoo things on ourselves to feel a different kind of pain, one we can control.
We shut down and go through the motions and bite our nails or always mess with our hair. “I am black”, "I am asian" we say, “we do not need therapy”. We swallow our words and our pain and sometimes we make it into art. We make it into something or into nothing and most of the time it turns us into something. Something other than who we are. At home, it is all so foreign and yet we can see it sometimes in the way our parents hold themselves up, with years of practice and a determination born out of survival. We know no other way and so we say ‘self care’ and buy masks and spend money and never sleep, or always sleep, never eat or always eat. We lay in our beds and dream ourselves out of existence. With people around, we smile and we laugh and dance and there is nothing behind it or there is everything behind it. We get up in the mornings and think about ending it all, we get up and say just this one day.
We move and we tell each other “we move” and all of the time, we do. We move towards doing better, we learn that life is not supposed to ache in this way. We talk to our friends and put names to the things that ail us and when we can, we go to therapy. We learn of rest and that truly, there is no shame to be had. We embrace the human and find the love and embrace each other. We learn to heal and to put down the heavy burdens of “these things are not done here”. We do the things that mean better, the things that make being black, that make being asian, a liberating thing and in this way truly, we move.
Want to talk to someone about your mental health? Check out the NHS A-Z Helpline:
BAME Mental Health Support:
Local Mind – a useful way of finding out what’s available in your area, such as specific BAME groups. They also have a useful information page that outlines their work in this area.
Black Thrive – an organisation that aims to end the stigma associated with mental health and address mental health inequalities experienced by Lambeth’s Black communities
Sharing Voices – a charity in Bradford that aims to reduce mental health and related inequalities for BAME communities.
Rethink Mental Illness– The service supports the mental health needs of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to recover a better quality of life. It does this through one-to-one support in accessing community facilities. The BME service works in partnership with statutory mental health teams and the BME voluntary sector. Access to interpreters can be arranged. Service literature is available in Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu.