Racism & Mental Health Resources

The reality of racism and white supremacy experienced by Black, Indigenous, and other people of Color (BIPOC) is deeply embedded in this country, its institutions, and within individuals. Communities of color are strong and resilient, surviving and thriving despite the crushing impact of racism. Yet it’s also important to recognize that people of color often experience significant trauma as a result of past and present realities—from surviving a history of slavery, genocide, and internment to the present-day realities of disparate access and outcomes on most measures, facing daily microaggressions, and watching the ongoing horror of the murder of Black people caught on video. Racial and ethnic minorities are often more likely to experience psychological distress, but have less access to mental health services, are less likely to receive needed care, and are more likely to receive poor quality care when they do seek treatment. Added to this, cultural messages often include stigma about getting mental health support with cautions to save face and be tough.

Cultural Considerations for Mental Health

The only thing that will start to address the pain of racism is the end of white supremacy and the dismantling systems of oppression. But in the midst of this trauma, the well-being and mental health of Black, Indigenous, and other people of Color matter. If you identify as BIPOC, it may help to consider the following:

  • Recognize trauma. It can be traumatic to hear about or watch the killing of people of color. Give yourself permission not to be okay. Take time and space to feel horror, fear, sadness, grief, rage. Whatever you are feeling is okay.
  • Intentionally seek community. Loneliness can cause physical harm to our bodies. Connect to a Business Resource Group (see links to state BRGs below), turn to family and friends, find an online community (especially when physical distancing is required for public health), or join an EAP webinar.
  • Make a wellness plan. Make sure to include movement, a nourishing diet, and 7-9 hours of sleep. As Black poet and activist Audre Lorde wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” (From A Burst of Light and Other Essays)
  • Separate what is in your control from what is not. Set boundaries around when and how often you consume media and which images may be too damaging to view. Choose which friends and coworkers are helpful to engage with right now.
  • Seek balance in the images and information you consume. While we can’t ignore the traumatic realities of injustice, make sure to find solace and joy in the beauty of BIPOC culture, art, music, food, and community. Find ways to daily celebrate your goodness and wholeness so that you can actively resist internalizing the subliminal messages from our racist culture.
  • Affirm your resilience. You have likely developed powerful coping strategies for persisting through all kinds of pain and trauma. Remind yourself of these skills and return to them.
  • Decolonize healing. Learn about the history of resilience in your family and community. Explore what culturally-based practices have worked to sustain people in your cultural group for centuries. As an example, check out this Ted Talk from the founders of GirlTrek.

When do you Need Professional Help?

EAP is here to support you with free, confidential counseling by calling 877-313-4455 or by filling out an online intake. Consider seeking professional help when:

  • a traumatic event or vicarious trauma leads to prolonged symptoms of re-experiencing (flashbacks, nightmares), avoidance (of thoughts, people, situations), negative thoughts and mood (shame, fear), and arousal & reactivity (irritable, angry, reckless, issues with concentration or sleep).
  • anxiety causes you to worry excessively in intensity, frequency, or amount of distress it causes, or when you find it difficult to control the worry (or stop worrying) once it starts.
  • you are feeling little interest or pleasure in doing things you once enjoyed, or you are feeling down, depressed, hopeless, or are having thoughts of suicide.

EAP’s Commitment to Anti-Racism and Cultural Relevance

EAP is committed to and is actively working to dismantle oppression within our program and services. You deserve to have a safe space in counseling, and you are welcome and encouraged to ask for a counselor who identifies as a person of color—we will do our best to accommodate your request. If you have any concerns about the cultural relevance or competence of any EAP services you receive, we invite you to share feedback with us (by calling and asking to speak with the director) so we can address your concerns, find you better support, and do better in the future.

Culturally Specific Mental Health Resources for BIPOC

Washington Counselors of Color (counselor listing by ethnicity, language, and religion)
Therapy for Black Girls Podcast (with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta)
Coping with the Psychological Impact of Racism (PDF from WA State EAP)
BIPOC Mental Health information (Mental Health America)
Encouraging Meaningful Conversations about Race and Trauma (Mindful)
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (Dr. Joy DeGruy)
Strength Over Silence: Stories of Courage, Culture, and Community (Black and Latinx mental health from NAMI)
Self-Care Tips for Black People Who Are Struggling With This Very Painful Week (Vice)
Free eCourse on Racialized Trauma (from Cultural Somatics Training & Institute)

For People Wanting to Learn How to be Anti-Racist

Racism hurts White people too—not in the same way that it causes harm to BIPOC, but it serves to diminish our collective humanity. It is an appropriate use of counseling to explore issues related to white identity, white privilege, the implicit racism we carry, white fragility, and the larger racialized white supremacist society within which we live. There are also many online resources you can find to do your own anti-racism work. Here are a few places to start, and you can find many more resources on the DES Workforce Learning Online Resources site.

21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge (Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr.)
Code of Ethics for White Anti-Racists - 10 suggestions for stronger solidarity (Medium)
'There Is No Neutral': 'Nice White People' Can Still Be Complicit In A Racist Society (8 min NPR interview with Dr. Robin DiAngelo)
Before You Check-In on Your Black Friend, Read This (Refinery29)
Deconstructing White Privilege (22 minute video by Dr. Robin DiAngelo)
Systemic Racism Explained (2 minute video)
Everyday racism: what should we do? (4 minute video)
White Privilege: Racism, White Denial & the Cost of Inequality (1 hour lecture by Tim Wise)
The Difference Between Being Non-racist and Anti-Racist (2 minute video)
Understanding Microaggressions (4 minute video)
Getting Called Out: How to Apologize (9 minute video)

For State Employees

Statewide Business Resource Groups (OFM page)
Black Business Resource Group (BRG) for state employees: Blacks United In Leadership & Diversity (BUILD)
Washington Immigrant Network
Latino Leadership Network

For Leaders

We Must Step up for Black People Right Now - Here’s How (Forbes)
Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay — Chances are They’re Not (Refinery29)
U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism (Harvard Business Review)