20 Jun 2022
“I got so many theories and suspicions
I'm diagnosed with real nigga conditions”
- ‘Yah’, Kendrick Lamar
Mental health is intrinsically personal, but what if I spoke of a shared suffering?
My mental illnesses appeared to stem from, or at least be worsened by the realisation
that I, as a black woman, and my black counterparts are perceived to be innately inferior
by the Western world. At the tender age of 7 years old, I stumbled upon a plethora of
Youtube comments which exposed me to the harsh reality of black history and race
relations in the West. My young mind couldn’t quite comprehend why these people were
calling for lynchings, hangings, humiliation and degredation of people like my dad. I say
‘people like my dad’ because, as a mixed-race child, I wasn’t aware that I too would
come to identify as a black person. My young mind began to mould to my detriment on
that day: the birth of my anxiety and depression.
Exposure to the grotesque accounts of what these individuals wanted to do to this black
male deeply saddened me and instilled within me a sense of fear which resides in the
back of my mind at all times to this day. Now, don’t get me wrong, even at such a young
age, I knew that ignorance drives hatred. Despite this, I was afraid nonetheless and
deeply wounded that the people I love could be wished ill by complete strangers with no
regard for their humanity. Justice felt foreign.
A bit later in my life, this ball of anxiety within me was put under immense pressure.
With the passing of time, my anxiety worsened, paranoia seeped into every cell in my
body and took host in my heart. I felt unsafe, frustrated and more than anything I felt
unworthy. The truth didn’t really matter. The truth of science has never really stood a
chance against the fallacies of humanity. The truth is, unfortunately, whatever the mass
conscience decides it to be. This is an exhausting pill to swallow.
I’m still perplexed by the fact that the pigment of one's skin plays such a vital role in
one’s existence. Scientifically, black people predated white people and the rhetoric that
black people are ‘savages’ seems to be clutching at straws to justify the monstrosities of
history. Exacerbating the weight of history is the fact that colonisation was enacted for
power and, ultimately, wealth. Money is indeed the root of all evil and those who
suffered for it are institutionally deprived of it. On top of this is the fact that black history
is recited with tact and white saviorism is still prevalent within the UK’s education
system in the 21st century. Political recognition of these facts and the psychological impact this has on the black community would, in my opinion, be the first step towards
the improvement of black mental health.
Kendrick Lamar is one of my favourite mouthpieces for black mental health. I cannot
pretend to have shared Kendrick’s experiences as a black male born into poverty and
gang violence in the USA, but I resonate with him nonetheless. The concept of ‘nigga
conditions’ struck me as accurate in numerous ways. Indeed, ‘..evidence suggests that
black and minority ethnic communities are at comparatively higher risk of mental ill
health, and disproportionately impacted by social detriments associated with mental ill
health' (Bignall et al. 2019). This inequality is perpetuated by the cyclical nature of black mental health.
Indeed, the mental toll of black history is exacerbated by institutional racism and the
resulting social immobility, poverty and criminal activity inevitably leaves the black
community with a plethora of mental illnesses. The cyclical element is attributed to the
fact that this oppression cultivates distrust between the black community and the State
as ‘black and minority ethnic communities are less likely to access mental health
support in primary care and more likely to end up in crisis care' (ibid.)
With the remnants of history still rife within Western institutions, black individuals are far less likely to seek help, at least initially, from the police and the NHS which can contribute to better mental
well-being via providing a sense of security and treatment at a critical stage for the
In my experience, NHS staff have done their best with the resources available to them
to facilitate my mental wellbeing. Prescribing me antidepressants appeared logical as
the battle between myself and my anxiety and depression felt too gruelling to endure
without the help of chemicals. However, after trying over 6 anti-depressants without
many positive results (bar, admittedly, the quietening of my suicidal thoughts), it dawned
on me and my GP that mind-altering drugs may not be an appropriate remedy to a
problem which stems from external factors.
Now, don’t get me wrong, if the West suddenly admitted its historical and present-day
wrongdoings to POCs and provided apt reparations, I doubt that my brain chemistry
would reset and I’d be cured of my ills. I think that, unfortunately, my brain development
at a critical age was disrupted by these issues and may be irreversibly damaged. This being said, future generations of black children would probably suffer far less from
mental health issues if this highly improbable scenario were to play out.
I do believe that addressing these issues in the political realm is key. Black mental health is
unsurprisingly overlooked by Western politics. Admitting wrongdoing is not a tactical
move in politics but without political engagement, we are unlikely to see positive results.
Whilst recognising the efforts of individual doctors and nurses, more must be done to
truly address this man-made mental mass suffering of people of colour.
On an individual level, mentally coming to terms with racial issues could do wonders for
black mental health which medication could never do. Medications such as SSRIs and
SNRIs can do wonders for mental stability but I feel they must be facilitated by other
means such as talking therapy and CBT.
In the present day system in the UK, I find hope in my peers and in outlets like hiphop to
remind me that I am not alone. In this maze of insecurity and pain, I believe that we are
strong and, eventually, our suffering will breed positive results for the black community.
● Michael White, ‘How Slavery Changed the DNA of African Americans’ (2016)
Pacific Standard, <https://psmag.com/news/how-slavery-changed-the-dna-of-
african-americans> accessed 16th Febuary 2022
● Tracey Bignall, Samir Jeraj, Emily Helsby and Jabeer Butt, ‘Racial disparities in
mental health: Literature and Evidence Review’ (2019) Race Equality
content/uploads/2020/03/mental-health-report-v5-2.pdf> accessed 18 February