With the recent headlines around Simone Biles stepping back at the olympics to focus more on her mental health, more and more people are talking about what it looks like to take care of your mental health, and why it’s so important for women of color to advocate for their own emotional and mental wellbeing. It’s also helped highlight some of the reason why women of color need to be focusing on their mental health more, one of them being because of racial fatigue.
Racial Fatigue for Women of Color
We think of fatigue and our minds immediately wander to the concept of self-care. We may ask ourselves: What does this look like? How can I incorporate this into my daily life? So, we go get a pedicure or spend the day at the beach to rejuvenate ourselves. However, when the fatigue is projected from something beyond our control, what methods of self-care help then?
I pose the question as it relates to structural or societal factors that can cause fatigue, anxiety, stress or depression. People of color have reported this more often to their family, friends and providers. It is evident that people of color have been faced with challenges for generations. With movements in the past few decades about racial equality and systemic discrimination, the conversation around mental health within such communities has risen. As a mental health professional, and a woman of color myself, I tend to ask clients or individuals in my life if they ever experienced racial discrimination as it can sometimes be an underlying trigger.
What is racial fatigue? The professional term is Racial Battle Fatigue, which is defined as a psychiatric condition in relation to general anxiety disorder. These conditions emerged from constantly facing racially dismissive, demeaning, insensitive and/or hostile racial environments and individuals” (American Counseling Association, 2018). Racial Fatigue is a newer term however important in the advocation of internal and external barriers that impact minority groups. It can be extremely difficult to continually navigate a world that continually makes comparisons. Additionally, it can be exhausting to continually stand up for one’s identity in the household, workplace, or larger space.
This topic was featured in a conversation course by Dr. Samantha-Rae Dickerson, EdD with DSRD Consulting. They reported that “black women are biologically 7.5 years older than White women. This is why we need to be resting and taking breaks as much as possible. Life and the society we live in is literally shortening our life expectancy” (2021). The conversation focused on the impact of generational trauma as well as ongoing movements towards equality (gender, race, socioeconomic status etc.). The research will need to continue in order to include all groups as the numbers are largely based on the African American experience.
Simone Biles and Mental Health
In the past month, conversations around racial differences in mental health expression have been highlighted in sports media. Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, two strong and amazing athletes, expressed their own struggles with mental health, ultimately having to remove themselves from situations or competitions. Rather than immense support and understanding, these two women faced backlash and rage against them. What does this tell us as a society? It indicates that women, in this case women of color, must continually perform and work until the body, mind, and soul exhibit exhaustion.
As a mental health professional and woman of color, this conversation means a lot to me. I not only see this within my own life but in the lives of my clients who report similar frustration and fatigue. I want to open the conversation to other groups while striving to change the amount of energy and resilience we continually use up in order to have a happy and healthy life.
Recommended Social Media
- Instagram: Good Humans Only @goodhumansonly
- Instagram: THE SELF CARE KIT: @theself_carekit
- Instagram: Fight Through Mental Health
- NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Health: www.namimd.org
- Instagram: Black Mental Health Matters
- Melanin and Mental Health: melaninandmentalhealth.com
- Instagram: @thearpyforblackgirls
Dicerkson, S.R (2021, March 6). Racial battle fatigue: conversations and chats. DSRD Consulting. Retrieved from https://www.dsrdconsulting.com/news-press
E.Yee (2018) Racial battle fatigue. American Counseling Association. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/news/aca-blogs/aca-counseling-corner/aca-member-blogs/2015/02/18/racial-battle-fatigue
Written by Maya Jefferson, LCSW
Maya is a therapist who is passionate about the working in the mental health feild. She has a special interested in disordered eating, body image and working with women of color who are seeking mental health treatment. She approaches therapy with a down-to-earth feel that is both compassionate and actionable. In her free time you can find her playing guitar, singing and reading.
If you’re interested in setting up an appointment with Maya, Contact her today.
Disclaimer: This is in no way a replacement for a therapeutic relationship or mental health services. This is for educational purposes only and should be in used only in conjunction in working with a licensed mental health professional. Reading this blog or responding to it does not constitute a provider-patient relationship. If you are looking for a local mental health professional feel free to use the contact tab to request an appointment or search Therapy Den for local therapists in your area. If this is a mental health emergency and you need immediate assistance please call 911 or your county’s crisis line to speak to a mental health professional.