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How Anxiety Disproportionally Affects Minorities and Their Support Systems

by Gabby Tazewell

We are all aware that anxiety is one of our body’s ways of coping with stressful situations, however, from the outside looking in, many may not know the effects anxiety truly has on the body throughout a 24-hour basis. This is an issue many have to face, however, the burden of coping with anxiety has affected the black community and underrepresented minorities in ways unimaginable. 

For centuries, people of color have had to face limitless amounts of racism, discrimination, and ostracisation. We’ve carried the burden in which color has had on our everyday lives, and although we love and embrace our skin for who and what we are; we’ve had to face another issue within our own communities. The lack of discussing/ embracing mental health; Most notably caused by reasons such as police brutality, systematic oppression, unethical justice systems, and impoverished neighborhoods, that have deliberately dismantled our communities. 

The black community in particular has had to endure a systemic way of thinking that we must endure anything and everything that is thrown our way. We’ve oftentimes always heard the notion that “If we’ve survived 400 years of enslavement, we can survive anything.” Regardless if there is some truth to this narrative, it still downplays the real-life issues we have to face internally on a daily basis. This way of conditioning has put mental health in our back pockets, allowing stress and anxiety to fester in the body, oftentimes making it difficult to feel supported. 

Since the time slavery was most prevalent in America, people of color have been conditioned to think that we have no other choice but to be strong while carrying the weight of the world, not acknowledging the deeply rooted issues society has inflicted on us, and how these issues have affected not only our mental health but our physical health as well. 

The lack of discussion within the topics of anxiety and mental health have made our coping mechanisms worse, resulting in our loss of faith and hope that things will get better. The most evident sign of this is by undermining each other’s feelings and downplaying mental health and anxiety as something to take lightly. I am here to tell you that mental health and severe anxiety are illnesses that can result in extreme negative measures, whether it’s severe drug abuse, alcoholism, and other negative ways of helping the body to cope with stress. 

No one person is perfect, no band or tribe, community, family, friend group is meant to have all the answers. We were all put here to learn different lessons and to experience different ways of life. We’re all living in a very difficult time right now, therefore all we can do is our best, and be there for the ones we love. Here are some ways to address anxiety in a good and productive manner. 

Listen then speak your mind 

All anyone really needs is for someone to listen to them. Productive conversations are a result of truly hearing what the other has to say. Open listening will direct the conversation in a way where both parties are satisfied with each and every point, this will bring more change to the situation than you think. 

Embrace the “awkward moments of truth” 

Embrace the awkward moments. This again has a lot to do with productive and proactive listening. Understand that although bringing light to the situation may be awkward, it needs to be done, for everyone’s peace of mind. 

Create a safe space 

Most people with anxiety are always on edge. Make it a priority to find and create a safe space of openness. Make it clear to the other person that they are invited to say and speak their mind freely and without judgment. Plan a nice day for a picnic, walk in the park, or maybe even a movie night. A safe/open space will help the other feel free and without restriction. 

If you notice that something is off, reach out 

Unfortunately, social media has conditioned many of us to believe that we should “careless” or sit back for the other to reach out to us first. This is probably one of the many reasons why people with severe anxiety tend to bottle things in, feeling that they may be a burden to others. If you notice something off about a friend, family member, or someone close to you, make it a priority to reach out to them. This simple act of kindness will show that you care, even if it’s through a simple phone call or text. No one has to deal with their mental health alone. 

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