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How Black students and staff can look after their mental health

Our latest Accommodation Matters episode explores race and inclusion in Higher Education, with our sector expert guests considering how research and policy changes can create a more inclusive environment in universities and student accommodation. Nana, an Urban Planning and Property Development student at Heriot-Watt University, shares her advice on how Black students and staff can look after their mental health.

“Mental health in the Black community can be a taboo subject and it’s often stigmatised, making it hard to deal with issues. But the events of the past year, like the death of George Floyd, have caused Black people considerable challenges when it comes to mental health. With this in mind, here’s my advice on how to look after your mental health as a Black person.

Don’t ignore your feelings

Acknowledge your feelings and give yourself permission to be sad. You are not crazy or weak for feeling the way that you do. Invalidating experiences and feelings can only worsen the situation. Recognising and accepting your feelings gives you an opportunity to understand them and not let them rule you.

Speak to someone

Speak to someone about the things that you are feeling. This could be friends, family, or even pets!

If you are considering therapy, organisations such as Black Minds Matter and the Black, African and Asian Therapy Network (BAATN) offer services in Black mental health.

If you struggle to verbalise your thoughts, write them out through journaling – what happened and how did it make you feel? And if you can’t translate your feelings into words, consider drawing them. There is no right or wrong way to express yourself, just try not to keep things bottled up. Find what works for you.

Log off

Believe me, I understand the conflict between not wanting to be upset but wanting to stay informed – just be mindful of how much time you’re spending online. Activism fatigue is real and burnout is not uncommon. Every now and then take a break from social media and remove yourself.

Go outside! Spend more time in nature! There are endless studies that show the link between green spaces and mental health. Other things you could try include giving yourself a time of day where you don’t go on your phone, or turning off news alerts in the evening so you can properly unwind.

Self care

Take care of your mind and body. Mental and physical health are heavily interlinked, so don’t ignore one for the other. Yes, eat well and go for a run, but remember to treat yourself – it’s about balance. Do things that make you feel good! Buy yourself those shoes. Get that facial. Bake yourself a cake. The phrase ‘self care’ can sometimes feel overused, but it simply involves taking action to preserve or improve your own health. It also varies from person to person.

Practice self-preservation

Understand that current events and the way certain people respond is not your fault, and it’s not your job to educate them. I understand from personal experience that these feelings and urges can be exhausting, so take the weight off your shoulders. Don’t dwell on times that you have kept quiet in the face of racism. Another person’s ignorance is not your fault. Don’t feel like it’s your responsibility to always be the one to do the work. Self-preservation is key for peace of mind.

Look for positive Black influence

Fall in love with your Blackness. Look for positive things in Black culture and go back to your roots. Learn about Black history through great African Empires or inspiration inventors. Binge watch The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, or listen to your favourite Dancehall artists. Find joy wherever you can and surround yourself with positive Black representation.

Reminder: Racism is exhausting, but being Black is not. Love your Black skin.

You are not alone

The struggle is real, but we are united and here for each other.

Make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who love you and limit interactions with those who don’t make you feel good. The fight is not over but having people to lean on can go a long way. Don’t underestimate the importance of community.”

Unite Students is undertaking vital research with Halpin Partnership into the experiences of Black students and staff in student accommodation. If you would like to take part as a Black student, please fill in this survey ; if you would like to take part as a Black member of staff in student accommodation, please head here .

If your organisation would like to contribute to our vital Black student experience research, please head to our explainer article on how to do this. You can read more about why the research was commissioned here .