Coping tools for Black teens: Responding to racial injustices

By Brandi Bellamy, AMFT, PPS

Impact of Racism on Mental Health

  • Feelings of disconnection and loneliness
  • Uncertainty
  • Decreased hope in the future, justice, the government, etc.
  • Increased “Survival Mode”
  • Decreased trust in others
  • Worry
  • Increase in depression or anxiety
  • Trauma (both from the present and triggering past instances/ generational trauma)
  • Existential questioning “How can the world be so cruel?”
  • Panic
  • Grief
  • Feelings of powerlessness (even if you do the right thing it can have a horrific outcome)

You may feel all of these,  some of these, or something else. These may be your own feelings or these may be reflections feelings that are surrounding you. Acknowledge them because all feelings are normal and valid.

But what do you with them?

1. Communicate. You have feelings and emotions that need to be expressed. Share them with an adult you trust which can include:

  • Therapist
  • Parent or relative
  • Teacher
  • Religious leader
  • Friend of the family
  • Trusted adult in your community

2. Self-care. If you are not well yourself, you cannot help anyone else

  • Eat, sleep, drink water.
  • Connect with your community
  • Acknowledge what you feel and that your feelings are valid
  • Disconnect when you feel overwhelmed
  • Do what makes you feel as close to yourself as possible

3. Activism. Protesting is only one way you can help the cause.

  • Donate time, money, ideas to a reputable organization
  • Spread credible information using social media
  • Be there for others that could use an ear
  • Use your talents and creativity to add something positive meaningful to the negative narrative: write letters, make art, organize something positive with your friends or classmates.
  • If you don’t feel you can do any of this, just getting through the day is its own form of activism


To utilize an affirmation, you may say it out loud, in your head or write it in your journal.  The more it is repeated, the more you  begin to believe it about yourself. Affirmations may feel silly at first, but they are great for reminding you that your feelings are real and there is nothing wrong with what you’re feeling during this time. 

Today I give myself permission to feel __________.

I will not allow anyone to tell me my feelings of ____________ are not real.

I give myself permission to grieve by ____________.

I give myself permission to protest, resist, and fight back by _________.

I give myself permission to not engage with ___________.

I give myself permission to honor my own needs by ___________.


Each Mind Matters

Black Mental Wellness

Young Black Men Project

Therapy for Black Girls

Article: Coping with the ‘secondary traumatic stress’ of being Black

Article: Teen coping with secondary trauma

Reposted with permission.

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