I know the consequences of the internalizations that may arise for racialized and marginalized folks. Both sets of my grandparents were born in India under British rule and as such were colonized subjects. My people entered the United Kingdom as immigrants and I was born into an England in which the politician Enoch Powell, echoing the majority feeling of the population, made his famous “Rivers of Blood” speech in the House of Commons calling for violence against those arriving from colonized lands. At the time of my birth London was host to numerous race riots, and the National Front, a far-right organization characterized by its violent skinhead youth, was extremely active. There was a deafening silence about this fact in my family, however, perhaps an internalized manifestation of the constant efforts (still) made in the dominant discourse to deny the effects of colonial practices, and that systemic racism even exists (Turner, 2020).
There is a growing literature about the profoundly negative impact of racism on mental health outcomes, the way in which oppression is internalized, and the various consequences of this. The experience of racism has been linked to higher levels of issues such as depression, psychosis, anxiety and posttraumatic stress (Henderson-Daniel et al., 2004; Karlsen et al., 2005; La Roche & Lustig, 2013; Graham-LoPresti et al., 2017). Research suggests that anxiety, including Social Anxiety Disorder, is more persistent and chronic in racialized populations than White populations. Women are already 60% more likely to have anxiety and 80 % more likely to have major depressive disorder compared to men, but racialized women often experience discrimination based on both gender and race. Psychoses are also reported to be more common in racialized groups, with a significant increased risk of schizophrenia in migrant groups from the Global South. This is just an example of what the pernicious, quotidian experience of racism can lead to in terms of mental health outcomes.
“I am talking of millions […] who have been skillfully injected with fear, inferiority complexes, trepidation, servility, despair, abasement.” (Césaire, A., 1955)
Césaire, A. (1955). Discours sur le Coloniali. Editions Présence Africaine.
Graham-LoPresti, J. R., Gautier, S. W., Sorenson, S. & Hayes-Skelton, S. A. (2017). Culturally Sensitive Adaptations to Evidence-Based Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for Social Anxiety
Henderson-Daniel, J., Roysircar, G., Abeles, N. & Boyd, C. (2004). Individual and Cultural-Diversity Competency: Focus on the Therapist. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 60 (7), pp. 755-770. DOI: 10.1002/jclp.20014
Karlsen S., Nazroo J.Y., McKenzie K., Bhui K. & Weich, S. (2005). Racism, psychosis and common mental disorder among ethnic minority groups in England. Psychological Medicine. 35 (12), pp. 1795-803. doi: 10.1017/S0033291705005830
La Roche, M. & Lustig, K. (2013). Being Mindful About the Assessment of Culture: A Cultural Analysis of Culturally Adapted Acceptance-Based Behavior Therapy Approaches. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 20, pp. 60-63
Turner, D. (2020). Fight the power: A heuristic exploration of systemic racism through dreams. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 00:1–6. DOI: 10.1002/capr.12329
Thoughts on Therapy and Mental Health