Taking care of yourself
A lot of things have changed for people all over the world in the past few weeks and months with concerns about coronavirus. It can be scary hearing about what has been happening around the world, especially when things are uncertain. The REACH team have put together some top tips to help guide you in taking care of yourself during this time.
1.It’s OK to be worried
Being worried about the changes that are happening at the moment is totally normal. However, there are lots of things we can do to help to manage the worry we might be feeling. That might be sticking to a routine, planning your daily activities, setting small goals and making sure you make time to relax and do the things you enjoy at home (Netflix!)
2.Keep in touch with friends and family
Many young people have left school unexpectedly and keeping ourselves physically distant from people we care about can be difficult. However, technology can help to keep us all connected. Whether it’s picking up the phone, making a videocall to your bestie or talking to friends online - make sure you check in so that you and your loved ones don’t feel alone when you can’t be together.
3.Don’t believe everything you see online
One of the downsides of living in an increasingly connected world is that we can see the news 24/7! Whilst this can be helpful and keep us up to date with what’s happening, it can also make us feel a little bit anxious, so try not to look at the news too often. If you want to learn more about what’s happening, make sure that you use reliable sources, for example the BBC.
If you’re not able to get outside in the fresh air as much as you’d like to, get creative with how you can keep moving at home. Watch some YouTube videos, learn a new dance on TIkTok or make a circuit in your bedroom! There are lots of ways to keep active indoors and have fun too.
We’re all having to adjust to a lot of changes at the moment, but it’s really important to make sure you keep having fun. Play online games with friends, watch your favourite comedy or get creative with a fun new hobby.
6.Ask for help
If you’re worried about anything, remember that asking for help is a good thing! Talk to a parent, friend, teacher or any other person that you trust. If you would like to talk to someone but don’t know where to turn, there are lots of helpful and confidential services for young people out there (we’ll link these below). And if that’s not for you, think about expressing your feelings in more creative ways, for example, writing a diary, a poem or private blog. Talking about how we feel is a really important part of managing our wellbeing, especially when adjusting to big changes.
Celebrating Black History Month
with a talk by Akala
In celebration of Black History Month, the Reach team attended a talk by Akala, in which he discussed his Sunday Times bestselling debut book, ‘Natives’.
With some of us having grown up listening to Akala’s music, we were jumping at the chance to get up close to the MOBO and BAFTA award winning artist, but this event opened our eyes to the more mature work of “the black Shakespeare” and the incredible accolades he has gone on to achieve.
Akala gave a whistle-stop tour of the themes discussed in his book, starting with growing up in London as a working-class, mixed-raced boy during the 80’s and 90’s. He described himself as a bookish teen who found himself being marginalised by circumstance and having to challenge the prejudiced views of teachers at school.
Moving on to highlight the evident structural racism that persists today, Akala spoke of the history of British colonialism and the British Empire. The passion he has for this topic was palpable as he addressed the room. It was moving to listen to Akala’s personal account of when he was first confronted with the idea of race. He recounted this moment of realisation as a young boy of 5 when he had just experienced a particularly nasty racially motivated insult from a white boy at school. As he came home and began explaining the incident to his mother, he was struck with the realisation that she was white and found this a difficult truth to be faced with, having just been on the receiving end of racial abuse from someone who is white.
Akala used his characteristic one-two punch of both sharing a well-researched evidence base interwoven with his own lived experience. Something that really struck a chord was hearing Akala describe incidents of witnessing friends involved in serious youth violence, to the point where this type of violence was so normalised within his peer group even by the time he reached his early teens. He spoke of the complete lack of ‘professional’ support that he and his peers received following these traumatic experiences. However, he spoke fondly of the community support he had received from his pan-African Saturday school and stressed the important role that these community groups can play in providing a safe space for young people. This hit home for us as we are painfully aware of the limited resources that are available to so many young people in their local communities and schools, despite the trauma and difficulties that many young people face growing up in inner cities today.
Akala’s talk, followed by a tantalising Q&A, left us hungry for more. The topics Akala discussed resonate so well with the ethos behind REACH research, and as such it was a huge privilege and great opportunity for us to be able to attend this talk. The relationships between ethnicity, racism and young people’s mental health are central to the REACH project. A lot of the adverse experiences that Akala discusses in his book are only too familiar to many young people growing up in London today. Together with our school partners and thousands of young-people who are taking part in REACH, we hope to contribute to change and to support a long-fought movement towards a more equal society.