‘A black man who was fatally shot while jogging.’ ‘Louisville police officers forced their way inside and “blindly fired,” killing Breonna Taylor.’ ‘Police officer shot and killed a 13-year-old in an alley more than two weeks ago, as the boy appeared to be raising his hands to give himself up.’ ‘Canada mourns as remains of 215 children found at indigenous school.’ ‘Data shows Vancouver had highest number of anti-Asian hate crimes in North America in 2020.’ These headlines are all over social media as the world focuses on the horrible acts of racism.
At the beginning of COVID 19, the idea of quarantining was seen as a break to get away from school, work, and other responsibilities, but it was quickly taking a depressing turn as people started to get lonely and bored. For entertainment, most turned to the company of electronics and social media. But social media quickly became depressing with many racially motivated acts of violence documented and shared on social media platforms. The sharing was in an effort to seek justice and shed light on what was going on, and while the acts of violence being shared played a big role in increased awareness and evidence to prove the injustice, the constant exposure to the content also played a part in overwhelming POC people.
Racism is a very big social issue that is a reality for persons of colour. It has always been hard to deal with, but now with so many social media outlets, people are hearing about injustices more often. Riverside student, Tankiso LeBrecht weighed in on being a person of colour in today’s highly saturated and charged media environment. “Racial injustice is not a new concept in our society, but in 2020, it seemed that the systematic racism was pervasive on social media and other digital platforms. You could not look anywhere without having to look at people of colour being abused by law enforcement, and people did not really acknowledge how that could negatively impact a person’s mental health,” said Lebrecht.
BLM protests and posts spread all over the world following the murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor and other black people dying at the hands of the law enforcement. This made social media a dark place for black people, seeing videos of many of their own being targeted and murdered. Lebrecht went on to say that “seeing all of that violent content was emotionally draining. I am glad the acts were filmed so justice could be served, but it was still hard to watch. I had to log out of my socials because it was such a negative impact on my mental health,” said Lebrecht.
With the rise of violence towards Asian lives during the height of COVID, it is very difficult and draining for a for a person of Asian heritage to feel comfortable just walking or shopping in their community. Grade 11 Riverside student Jenna Frers expressed how the rise of Asian violence negatively impacted her and made her feel anxious about attending school when it re-opened. “I have always heard Asian jokes all my life, but at the height of COVID there was added anxiety and pressure due to ignorant people making jokes about COVID and Asians, adding to the negative stereotypes,” said Frers. Of course, many these racist acts and attitudes towards Asians were also captured on social media.
Another problem for POC communities is that, in many cases, mental health is not really talked about in their households. Grade 11 Riverside student Aliya Dif had some thoughts about this issue. “I feel as if people of colour do not value their mental health due to so many issues in their communities. With having to be strong people in society due to facing so much adversity puts a toll on one’s mental health. Their feelings are not validated all the time. There is not a safe place in most people of colour households to speak up about their struggles.” According to Mental Health First Aid, a national non-profit health promotion charity focused on training and research, one of the most common ways culture can impact one’s mental health is cultural stigma. In some cultures, mental health is not a subject that is touched on. “My parents came here from a different country and had to work harder than the average white person to establish themselves in this new environment, especially with facing so much adversity and racist views back in the day. They barely spoke English or knew much about Westernized culture, but they still were able to make a better life here, so for me to talk about my mental health, it is almost as if I am complaining or blaming them. They are just not used to the conversation, obviously there was times they had poor mental health when coming to Canada, but they did not have time or the privilege to take a second and understand it’s not normal to be feeling this way,” said a Riverside student who wishes to stay anonymous.
In 2020-21, we saw a lot of change and increase with the mental health conversation in all sorts of communities. Though some people of ethnic backgrounds may not feel comfortable talking to friends or family just yet, there are many resources one can use to seek help. One can easily be caught up in the world of the internet and not notice how it is deteriorating mental health. If you are being negatively impacted by anything on social media, consider stepping away from social media and taking a well needed break.
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