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Mental health and being black | Black History Month at GoCardless

By Christina AsanteOct 20202 min read

I grew up with a saying that to this day has lingered in my mind. “You have to work 10 times harder to be considered half as good” as your non-black counterparts.

Being in the minority throughout my working life, I can tell you firsthand the negative impact of not having anyone else look like you.

I’ve often asked myself “Why am I here?” and “What will happen if they find out that I’m not supposed to be here?”

And it’s not just me suffering from this imposter syndrome. In an article by Sheryl Nance-Nash for the BBC, clinical psychologist Emily Hu is quoted saying:

“We’re more likely to experience imposter syndrome if we don't see many examples of people who look like us or share our background who are clearly succeeding in our field. This is especially true for black and indigenous people, for whom overall representation across almost all white-collar fields is alarmingly low.”

I can’t tell you how true this rings for me.

And the impact of imposter syndrome can be severe. Feelings of inadequacy, stress, anxiety, being overworked, lack of sleep - all of these take a huge toll on physical and mental health.

Today, we’re seeing more discussion around mental health and acknowledging mental health concerns in children from younger ages. This is fantastic, but there’s still so much more we can do.

Did you know those who come from BAME backgrounds are less likely to talk about mental health than their white counterparts? This can stem from older generations who did not believe in things like depression and anxiety. Instead, the culture is to not talk about how you feel, or you’ll bring shame to your family name. Strength is seen as being silent and moving forward - a behaviour each generation learns from the one before.

And I believe it’s in no small part that this is why still, within the black community, it's taboo to talk about mental health.

Fall into Conversation 

So, I started a podcast to try and break down this taboo and encourage the black community to start talking more about mental health. Fall into Conversation (FIC) is centred around storytelling and self-reflection in order to help, motivate, and comfort listeners when addressing topics around mental health, with a particular focus on bringing on guests from within the BAME community.

I want listeners to understand that they are not alone. I want to help them normalise talking about mental health. I want to help get us to a place where asking “How is your mental health?” is as ordinary as asking “How are you today?”

So far I’ve had conversations around mental health when it comes to raising children, relationships, disability, upbringing, toxic relationships, and the stigma associated with men and their mental health.

And this is all just from conversations with friends and family so far, to help kick this project off. It’s surprising how much I’ve learned from people I consider myself so close to, that I never knew before. Another reminder of the culture of silence around mental health issues in the black community.

But with FIC, I finally have a platform to address this. It’s a safe space to talk and learn from one another. It can be hard-hitting at times, but the outcome is worth it.

It’s when I received a message from someone I didn’t know that said

“Love what you do. Was going to do something similar. I like hearing others' stories and how they get through it and what they look forward to”

that I realised that even if one person listened, it was worth it.

There’s a world of podcasts to check out

Podcasts I’d suggest listening to, not just because of Black History Month but because they are very informative:

And if you’d like to hear more from me: Fall into Conversation.

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GoCardless (company registration number 07495895) is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Payment Services Regulations 2017, registration number 597190, for the provision of payment services. GoCardless SAS (23-25 Avenue Mac-Mahon, Paris, 75017, France), an affiliate of GoCardless Ltd (company registration number 834 422 180, R.C.S. PARIS), is authorised by the ACPR (French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority), Bank Code (CIB) 17118, for the provision of payment services.