The impact of discrimination on mental health

I feel that this essay is probably long overdue, especially considering the results of the consanguinamory study. I was unsurprised, but still very saddened by the sheer number of people who are suffering mental health difficulties as a direct result of either fearing persecution, or actually being persecuted. Of all the people who took the survey, 56.6% reported having suffered at least one troubling mental health issue because of this, and 57.8% of those who reported a problem reported more than one problem. Needless to say this number is unacceptably, intolerably high.

As expected, anxiety (31.2% of us) and depression (15.2%) were the main problems people were experiencing. Now, I know some of our critics will be nodding their heads saying ‘see, look at your own stats, isn’t that proof that these relationships are unhealthy’… and my answer would be no, not at all. If those people could for one moment put themselves into the shoes of the average consang couple. You can’t tell others the true nature of your relationship because it might land you in jail, you have to watch your every move, you do not have the same legal rights as everyone else, the world makes horrible assumptions about people just like you. Imagine going through all that on top of the usual ups and downs which ordinarily happen within a relationship. Imagine the fear caused by bigotry and persecution, all because of who you love. If you can imagine all that, then understanding how this leads to anxiety and depression should be easy. If people are subjected to high levels of stress caused by their environment for prolonged periods of time, then it can and does lead to these sorts of problems.

What I found most troubling, was the 4.2% of us who had suicidal thoughts. This is something that people just don’t talk about, how discrimination can literally destroy people, and in extreme cases it can lead to people taking their own lives believing that it’s the only way out in a world that just refuses to accept them as they are. This may sound like a tiny percentage, but it’s about one in 21 suffering like this. In real terms, it’s a lot of people, and a lot of needless and senseless suffering. If any critics reading this have a shred of empathy, they should realize that although they may disagree with what we are, we’re human beings and their attitudes are what leads to the discrimination that hurts people, even to this extent. I doubt any decent human being would actually want to be part of a problem which can be deadly. When 4.2% of any minority has had thoughts about killing themselves, something must be done to tackle the problem. This is why I am writing this essay, to appeal to peoples common decency and empathy.

Of course, all this stress can cause a whole raft of problems for people, even when it’s not so extreme. 13% are suffering with insomnia, no doubt lying awake at night worrying about the possibility of discrimination if they’re discovered. Of course, sleep deprivation in itself can be hazardous to health in many ways, it can lead to depression, weakened immune system and impair a persons ability to function normally simply because they’re too tired to think straight.

Then there are those who get to sleep just fine, but because they are strugging to cope with the fear of discrimination, and likely push it to the back of their minds while they’re awake, it all comes out in nightmares. 8.7% of us suffer from these nightmares depicting our worst case scenarios. The mind has to process our fears and emotions somehow, and dreams are one way in which it does so.

6.9% of us suffer from panic attacks. Again, this is happening to people who try their best to hold in their emotions, but after bottling it up to a large degree the mind and body must let go of all that negativity somehow. Sometimes this is expressed as a panic attack. This is yet another way in which negativity and discrimination is impacting peoples health.

Finally, there is the 13.4% of us who suffer from mood swings. When under constant stress and living in fear, this isn’t surprising at all. In fact it’s surprising that the numbers aren’t bigger. Who doesn’t get jumpy when under pressure?

So, what can we do to combat this?

As is often the case there is no simple or quick solutions. In the long term, our plans are to remove the negativity by campaigning for equality. This will be of benefit to consang people for centuries to come, but it doesn’t do anything to help those who are suffering RIGHT NOW.

This in mind, I want every single person who is going through these problems to know that this community is here for you. We’re not therapists nor are we doctors, but we’re your fellow human beings, and we may be able to help in some small ways, even if just as a listening ear. Please, join our forum, Kindred Spirits, contact with others who are going through the same issues is of great benefit to people, you know, just being around others who understand. We have to stick together and be there for each other.

On another note there are some things you can do to help reduce your stress levels and thus decrease the risk of things getting worse:

  1. Take some time to participate in leisure activities – Anything which helps you relax or enjoy yourself. You might for instance go for a long walk to clear your head, get some other form of exercise, go our for a nice meal…etc
  2. Move someplace where nobody knows you, thus instantly decreasing the risk of being caught.
  3. Learn meditation or relaxation techniques.
  4. Take up a hobby which involves making nice things.
  5. Reduce consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
  6. Take a long bath and let the water relax you.
  7. Make your home the most relaxing space possible.
  8. Empower yourself by recognising that it’s others with the problem, NOT YOU.
  9. Make sure you eat healthily.

This isn’t an exclusive list of course, there are probably many more things you can do, but you get the general idea. Make sure you take the time to look after yourself, your physical and mental well being are important, especially for us because of the long term stress we have to endure.

Conclusion

The statistics show the extent of suffering caused by discrimination and fear of discrimination. These numbers should be considered hard proof that equal rights are needed, because discrimination ruins peoples health by exposing them to intolerable levels of stress and anguish. Just because some of us are coping okay does not make discrimination okay, because it’s far from okay, and we as a community are NOT willing to put up with it any more. We’ve been oppressed for centuries, we’re barely understood by the mainstream and a whole raft of myths are out there about us. It’s time these things came to an end… for our health at the very least.

While all the above is true, there are also things we can do to help ourselves and each other, and we should do them. We can take some responsibility for looking after ourselves by doing whatever is possible to reduce the risk of being caught, and also learning how to switch off and relax. It’s not always easy of course, and we all fall short at times and let stress get the better of us. But surely failing sometimes is better than letting ourselves be blown around in the wind feeling powerless to overcome our emotions and fears. All of us are afraid sometimes, and considering what we’re up against, it’s not at all surprising. But, it’s the difference between you controlling your fear and your fear controlling you… and that can mean the difference between coping and not coping.

Ultimately, know this: we ARE going to win this battle, no matter how long it takes. We as a community DO NOT deserve to be discriminated against, and we DO NOT deserve to suffer these mental health issues as a result of that discrimination. Our battle is a righteous one, and a very winnable one because nothing our critics have thus far put forth has actually stood up to scrutiny. Fallacies, repeating myths, and prejudice do not form legitimate arguments. Our opponents may seem strong, and they sure are numerous, but their arguments against equality hold about as much water as a paper box. So every time you feel you’re getting stressed, imagine that paper box being filled with water, and collapsing just as quickly.

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