Our member Dee Albert says a powerful documentary in which former footballer Anton Ferdinand explores racism in the game is already helping people deal with their racial experiences.
Dee took part in the BBC documentary Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism and Me, in which ex-Premier League defender Anton spoke for the first time about the events and repercussions surrounding the highly publicised racism storm involving John Terry in 2011.
Terry, the then England captain, was acquitted in a criminal case of racially abusing Anton during a Premier League game. The Football Association, however, found him guilty of using racially abusive language and he was banned for four matches and fined £200,000.
Dee said she has been contacted by several people who’ve said the documentary has supported them with their experiences.
“I think it’s helping people already,” said Dee, a psychotherapist based in Middlesex.
“When I think about the amount of calls I’ve received from people saying we saw you talking to Anton Ferdinand. Many are saying they were racially abused five years ago, or were racially abused last year.
“I’ve received calls from people who’ve grown up in rural communities, where they may be the only black person in their environment. I can tell this programme is already helping people.
“It’s definitely hit the spot supporting others to talk about the impact racism has had on them. Encouraging them to talk about their differences, their isolations, their pains, which I hope can lead to their healing.
Dee added: “It makes me proud to be involved in a stigma that many people fear discussing. The ripple effect of this documentary will continue to support those impacted by racism for years to come.
“I’m happy he found some support in what I was saying.”
Dee said the documentary was an opportunity to support not only former West Ham, QPR and Sunderland star Anton, but other people from all walks of life, who’ve been impacted by racism both black and white
“This is an area of work I really want to develop, because it’s not being talked about,” she said.
“People are saying yes we know racism exists, we know that it’s awful, we know that it’s happening. Many question what can we do about it. Sadly, people aren’t not talking about the impact, the trauma
“I want to be able to give it a voice and this was an ideal opportunity to do that.
“It was also an opportunity to help someone in pain, to bear witness to what is going on for them and help them ‘normalise’ it in a sense, and find some comfort knowing they are no longer alone.”
Impact of racism
Dee describes the impact racism can have on a person.
“Many have shared racism has impacted their careers and ability to work,” she said. “It can impact their ability to function in society.
“Some have shared, losing their voice, and this can be debilitating.
“Some clients have shared ‘is this really happening?’. They’re having conversations in their head with themselves about the situation they’re in. For many it feels surreal.
“Racism leaves many feeling ashamed, numb, tired, guilty, tearful.
“Many people have shared experiencing flashbacks of the situation.
“In practice I talk about the nursery rhyme many were taught as children that sticks and stones may break their bones but words will never hurt me, and I question how many of us use that as armour?
“Words hurt even more than a cut on the arm, a bruise, because those heal and people can see that and tend to it and nurture it. My mum would put Vaseline on my wounds because Vaseline cures everything, but how do you put Vaseline on the internal wounds of racism?”
In the documentary, Anton talks about his reasons for not speaking about the incident until now.
Dee said that when you do open up, it’s important to find someone you can trust to talk to.
“When I think about it culturally, if you’ve been impacted by racism you may well be from a culture telling you don’t tell others your business,” she said.
“So when you’re nearest and dearest tell you not to talk about something, that silences you more.
“The reason those around us tell us not to talk about it is to keep us safe from the backlash and uncertainty of how others will respond to our pain.
“Our loved ones are telling us not to talk about it for a reason, to keep us safe, so who are you supposed to talk to?
“It’s a juxtaposition, where we’re not going to talk about it in order to stay safe, but if I don’t talk about it, how long can the pain be safely suppressed and how much damage is being done in that time?”
Dee said that one of the reasons she became a psychotherapist was because of her own experiences of talking therapies.
And she has offered people advice on how to begin to “heal from the impact of racism”.
“I had depression when I was in my 20s,” she said. “My brother-in-law took me to the Samaritans. I met with a counsellor for six weeks and after six weeks I felt better, so I kept on going.
“I know talking therapies work.
“I’m from a community that’s encouraged us not to talk about our private lives in order to stay safe.
“I wanted to give my community a voice, and I want to support the healing.
“The healing of my community, being the black community, goes back hundreds of years.”
She added: “Part of healing from the impact of racism is knowing who you are and where you came from.
“I think it’s important when we’re impacted by racism that we empower ourselves in our culture.
“Visit your old neighbourhood or place of birth. Speak to or be with your elders. Read the story of our heroes and sheroes. Support your spiritual wellbeing through mediation and developing a spiritual practise.
“This enables clients to build confidence and self-esteem, making it easier to wade through the pain, anger and silence and onto the path of healing.”
Counselling and psychotherapy
And Dee said counselling and psychotherapy can help people process what they’ve experienced.
“It makes them realise that they’re experiencing trauma," she said. "It’s not to be brushed under the carpet.
“I came into psychotherapy to support my community, to help people live their best lives, and to facilitate change. I know it works,” she added.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this article and want to speak to a therapist, you can find a BACP member near you via our directory.
Image credit: BBC / Wonder TV / Chris Bull
What is counselling?
Find out how counselling works, what therapists do and what happens in a therapy session. We also explain some of the key terms and concepts you may hear.
What therapy can help with
An A-Z list of issues and concerns which may be helped by talking to a counsellor.
How to find a therapist
How to use the BACP Register and our online therapist directory to find the right counsellor or psychotherapist for you.