Mental health, the black experience and importance of #BlackLivesMatter

For those of you who know me or follow me on my personal Twitter or LinkedIn, you will have seen me post about the murder of George Floyd about a week ago, and the ongoing need for change in society’s attitude to the black community. Those posts were full of anger, resignation and despair, and functioning became a chore. Since then, I have battled a relapse in anxiety and depression as well as low motivation, lapsing into my classic avoidance technique of diving into trivial, mundane and easy things to hide away from all of the updates and opinions as the traumas of the black community made headlines (for this news cycle anyway).

For some, Black Lives Matter is a noble but distant social cause to post about and carry on with their day to day lives. For others, it is a chance to shout stupid counter-arguments, drowning out our voices and calls for justice in toxic Twitter debates, ironically proving the very point we are trying to make. As a community, our mental health is at stake. Our ability to go out and feel comfortable is at stake. For some of us less fortunate, our very lives are at stake. It could be any one of us. This is not a joke, or newspaper fodder for jovial discussion over the water cooler. You might be able to move on once the cameras are off, but we can’t.

From a personal perspective, witnessing such emotionally fraught events means neither me or my business function. As a one-woman central team, if I am hiding from social media to protect my sanity, my business doesn’t post. If sending emails takes all the strength I have, that’s all my business does for the day. Eating is optional. Face to face social interaction becomes a fraught worry that someone will awkwardly try to bring it up in an attempt to seem ‘woke’. Talking about the effect it has had on my mental health has taken nearly a week’s worth of avoidance and battling to gather my thoughts – and I’m just one person. This is the real cost, not just for me, but black creatives, black business owners, black parents, black employees across the world. We look at the news and we are scared. We look around us and question who might secretly think less of us because of the colour of our skin. We wonder: who thinks George Floyd deserved to die? Who wishes they could use that dreaded word? Who do I need to unfriend? Do I need to find a new job? What behaviours will I have to police? What micro-aggressions will I face? Will things ever actually change? Questioning our experience and place in society is so ingrained, it is almost second nature, and it is tiring.

For anyone who is reading or sharing this: The Danver Group are a proudly black-owned business. I do not welcome anyone who does not understand the importance behind dismantling a system built on oppression, injustice and discrimination where black people are disproportionately affected. If you don’t support that ethos, I don’t want your business, or your money. If you drown us out with All Lives Matter and other reasons why we shouldn’t protest and ask for change, don’t send me your proposal request or job application. You can keep it. If you don’t like that my community are asking for inclusion and equality, find someone else to help you. To me, #BlackLivesMatter is more than just a hashtag, a quick way for companies to look caring or something to read in tomorrow’s newspaper. It is my mental health and the lives of people who look just like me and the knowledge that, still, society isn’t fully accepting of us, no matter how real the facade looks.