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The solution

Safe Spaces for solidarity

You know that feeling where you walk into a room of people like you (in my case, women of Colour), and you just feel like you can breathe properly? Or, like you stop holding your breath? It’s something I’ve talked about with friends in the ‘multicultural’ youth space, but I am certain it’s an experience that applies broadly across groups with different, specific kinds of lived experience– of mental health, of cultural and other ‘identities’ that we have. There is something so rejuvenating about being in these spaces of shared experience, where we don’t have to always translate our experiences for others, and where can be honest and without worrying about offending anyone, or making anyone (esp. white people) feel guilty or awkward.

I think we need to invest more in these spaces. Initially, I get that they can seem like a kind of exclusionary thing– but I think that they can be a really powerful tool for connection. Done well, I think these kinds of groups can complement larger community efforts to improving mental health and wellbeing– I think of it kind of like breaking down into small groups before coming together as a whole-group. And, they can provide really invaluable opportunities for personal connection and friendship, improving mental health through the process, along the way.

I grew up in very white environments, and looking back I can say that my mental health suffered as a result of feeling isolated and out of place, as an Asian Australian- and not having any ‘safe spaces’ available. However, I never realised this until I stumbled by accident into a safe space, with a community with shared experiences of being Othered. For this reason I think that it’s really crucial to go out of our way to make these safe spaces accessible to people, even/especially for people who are not already part of one.

Please note: While I put this idea under the subheading ‘Beyond Services for Interconnection’, this (socio-geographic) idea also relates a bit to the idea of planned environments.
Apologies I don’t have my own photo to go along with this– please accept this UnSplash one as an illustration 🙂

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