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Black Lives Matter: Student support services

Published: 2nd July 2020

The recent Black Lives Matter protests across the country can be triggering events for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as they remind us of the ongoing injustices faced by First Nations people and People of Colour across the world.

How are you coping?

It’s okay to have a range of feelings right now. It’s important to take stock of and acknowledge how you are feeling and what you need to do to keep your spirit and mind strong.

You may be feeling a range of emotions and feelings that conflict with each other and get in the way of focusing on your studies, such as anger, frustration, confusion, grief, numbness, stress or worry. Watching protests may also make you feel inspired, proud, connected, hopeful, activated, and resilient. You may not be able to name all of your feelings.

You may feel things in your body such as headaches, nausea, stomach aches, tightness in the chest, feeling tired or lacking energy, not being able to concentrate, or feeling distracted.

You may find yourself wanting to take action: protesting, working together with others to address injustice or to make change, connecting with family/friends/community

You may find yourself wanting to withdraw: avoid media, friends, family, public spaces, usual activities.

Any and all of these responses are perfectly reasonable and typical responses to the Black Lives Matter protests. 

Here are a few tips on respecting and honouring your emotions during this time:

Respecting and honouring your emotions during this time

If you are feeling anger or frustration

Reach out and talk with someone about what is angering you, visit social networking sites which make you feel empowered and hopeful rather than angry.  Look after you.

  • Talk about it with family/Elders/friends.

  • You are also entitled to either avoid or challenge unhelpful and hurtful opinions when you hear them or see them online.

    • If you do choose to engage or challenge hurtful opions you can: challenge stereotypes being presented, ask for clarification, express disagreement, interrupt or redirect a conversation, differentiate between intent and impact, appeal to the values of the person with the hurtful opinions, speak about it with a friend, seek support from a counsellor, report the act[1]

  • Channel frustration into doing things you love or playing sports/exercise.

  • Tune out the noise on the news or social media.

You are also entitled to avoid or challenge hurtful and unhelpful opinions by asking for clarification, expressing disagreement, redirecting the conversation, and challenging stereotypes.

If you are feeling overwhelmed

Take a pause.

  • Take a break from the news/social media.

  • Check in with your body. If it’s tense, do something calming, such as going for a walk somewhere you feel safe, or listening to some chilled music.

  • Reach out for help – use your informal supports like friends and family or speak to a counsellor.

If you are feeling winyarn (empty/sad)

Stay connected to others and let those close to you know how you’re feeling.

  • Connect to country or a place that’s meaningful to you.

  • Focus on what’s important to you and invest some time in reconnecting to this. For example, set a goal to do one thing this week to reconnect.

Other ways to stay safe and well:

  • Allow yourself to feel your emotions without judgement.

  • Look after your body by getting between 6-8 hours of sleep, drinking 8-10 cups of water per day, and eating a range of foods and reducing the consumption of processed foods.

  • Make time each day to unplug by turning off your phone, computer, iPad, television.

  • Plan fun activities and things to look forward to.

  • Revisit goals, and plan steps towards these.

  • If you have the time, invest in small opportunities to grow. For example, learn a new skill, or listen to an inspirational podcast or TED talk.

  • Recognise what you can do reduce the intensity or impact of your feelings.

  • To help you keep calm, draw or colour, listen to chilled music, sit somewhere you feel safe and relaxed, give yourself a hand massage, practise meditation or controlled breathing.

  • To help lift your mood, dance to an upbeat playlist, play a board game with friends, exercise or play sport, or cook your favourite meal.

Remember that small pockets of time spent nurturing our well-being make a big difference over time.

Further information and resources

Murdoch University

  • Murdoch University Counselling Service: Free, short-term counselling for enrolled Murdoch students. Call (08) 9360 1227.

  • Murdoch University Psychology Clinic: Free psychological assessment and short-term counselling for children, adults, couples and families. Services are provided by Murdoch University Clinical and Professional Psychology trainees under supervision. Call (08) 9360 2570.

  • Caladenia Counselling: Affordable general counselling for students, staff and the general public. Individuals and couples counselling provided by Murdoch University Master of Counselling trainees under supervision. Call (08) 9360 7848.

Online support

  • Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Social and Emotional Wellbeing, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

  • Health Info Net: Providing an evidence base to inform practice and policy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.

  • Beyond Blue online forums: Participate in web-based discussions, connect with others on-line in a safe and anonymous environment.

  • 1800-Respect: Confidential information, counselling and support 24/7 to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.

  • e-headspace: Free online support and counselling for young people aged 12-25.

  • Qlife: Telephone and web-based counselling and referral service for LGBTIQ people. Call 1800 184 527.

24-hour crisis support

  • Lifeline WA: Free, 24-hour telephone and web-based crisis support. Call 13 11 14.

  • Mental Health Emergency Response Line. Metro: Call 1300 555 788; Peel: Call 1800 676 822.

  • Suicide Call back Service: 24/7 telephone and web-based counselling for people who are affected by suicide. Call 1300 659 467.

Face-to-face counselling services in Perth

[1] Examples taken from Sue, D. W., Alsaidi, S., Awad, M. N., Glaeser, E., Calle, C. Z., & Mendez, N. (2019). Disarming racial microaggressions: Microintervention strategies for targets, White allies, and bystanders. American Psychologist74(1), 128.