Racism and its Effect on Mental Health - by An UnWanted Life
I became suicidal by the time I was 8 years old after years of racial abuse at primary school and on the streets of my home time. It's one of the reasons I hate going back home to see my family.
Let me put some context to all this for you. When I was born, I was the only black person in my family, I'm a mix of Afro-Caribbean and white. At primary school, I was the only black person. My home town is still 98.8% white at the last census.
Groups of kids would gang up on me and racially abuse me and try to start fights with me. But none of the staff would try to help me even though they could see and hear what was going on.
Only one time did one member of a group that was bullying me ever get into trouble and got made to stand next to the wall for the remainder of the dinner break. But then I got this his girlfriend all up in my face giving me hassle for him getting into trouble for bullying me like it was might fault. Both he and his girlfriend were four years older than me and substantially taller than I was, but she wouldn't leave me alone. So, I pushed her over so I could getaway. I was punished for that by being made to stand feet away from the bull who'd been racially abusing me all year. I just couldn't catch a break.
When I wasn't being bullied in school, I was being chased home by another kid on his bike who was also four years older than me. He never caught me because I could easily outrun him even though they were on a bike, but this was a regular occurrence.
I wasn't even safe outside on my street. I was playing WWF (now WWE) with a friend in his front garden and out of nowhere a kid was walking by and started racially abusing me, so I dished it back. They told me to come say it to their face (even though there was no fence or anything in between us, just a couple of metres of grass), so I did. I got right up in their face, even though he was several years older than me, and repeated what I said, then legged it. I had many incidents like this growing up.
It didn't matter where I was or what I was doing, I was never safe from being racially abused. As a result, I developed a serious identity problem. All I wanted was to be like everyone else so I wouldn't have to suffer the constant racial abuse I was getting. I just wished I was white.
I was constantly getting jumped and getting into fights all because I was white. Even though I'm as much white as I am black.
When I finally snapped and started to drown in suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self-harm, I took a Brillo pad to my arm to try and wash my skin colour away. One of the racially abusive comments I would get that I was really white, just dirty, and that's why I was black. Thus, when I broke, I wanted to find out if that was true.
This was one of the most painful experiences I've ever had, both physically and mentally. As you can probably guess, I was still black after doing this, and a lot of red.
This was the first time I'd ever felt true and inescapable despair, but it wouldn't be the last.
By the time I made it to the final year of primary school I was having almost daily breakdowns. It was advised that I go home at our dinner break to eat rather than being at school because of all the problems me being there caused. The problem was that my mum often wouldn't get back in time to prepare me something to eat, so I'd be in the house having a complete and total breakdown.
I'd go to the kitchen and take out the meat cleaver and stand there at the kitchen sink crying my eyes out as I was consumed with the thoughts of chopping off my left hand. This was pretty much my daily school day activity.
Ever since then I've had to deal with suicidal thoughts, issues around self-harming, and engaging in hair destroying behaviour that left me with permanent traction alopecia. The last time I self-harmed or tried to kill myself was 2003.
The risk still remains, however. That's because I never plan to kill myself or self-harm. What happens is that I'll be hit with a feeling of grave despair out of nowhere and I just simply act upon it within minutes.
I have almost daily thoughts about my existence and how pointless my life and everything is, and how no longer existing would just be better, so that's most likely why I act so quickly when I hit these states of despair.
One time after a night out with my friends drinking, I was really happy and joyful until I stepped through my front door. As soon as I passed through that door I was consumed with despair and walked upstairs and tried to hang myself. I didn't think about it I just did it, all within minutes of being home and being hit with the feeling of despair. When that failed, I got a knife and slashed my arm and then went to bed. That cut took 10 stitches to patch up.
That was the last time I tried to end my own life and the last time I ever cut myself. But it wasn't the last time I had entered that state of despair.
Last year I so may thing were going wrong in my life and I got another piece of bad news that just caused me to spiral instantly into despair, but this time I was able to control it and instead of acting without thinking, and instead it turned into a visualisation of me killing myself and being consumed with that single thought for hours. But I didn't do try to do it which was a first.
My life could have been so different if it wasn't for all the racial abuse I suffered as a child.