How This BIPOC Mental Health Podcast Got Me Through Covid-19

A mental health podcast with meditation specifically for BIPOC helped me practice self-care and stay calm during the pandemic.

The year is 2020. The month is March. And the world as we knew it would never be normal again. Covid-19 had touched down in New York City, and it was hitting hard. Here at one of the epicenters of the pandemic, I quickly learned that Covid-19 is very real. People in my community—the Latinx community—were being hit hard by the pandemic, and they still are. My friends, family, and acquaintances have fallen ill and, in some cases, died of Covid-19. Needless to say, my mental health took a hit.

During the early days of the pandemic, I would see images of overcrowded hospitals, news reports of weeping family members losing loved ones, and the increase in the number of cases and fatalities. I was left speechless and overwhelmed. One morning in March, I checked Spotify and noticed a Daily Wellness playlist curated for me. The playlist included a mix of music and mental health podcasts to help guide me through the day. The first one I tried was “The Daily Shine,” a podcast-meditation hybrid that uses meditation techniques like mantras or repetition to help you set a self-care intention for the day.

(Related: How To Find the Right BIPOC Therapist for You)

A more inclusive wellness podcast

I’ve never been one for health and wellness podcasts because I usually find them to be too general for my needs and unrelatable. But “The Daily Shine” was different. For the first time, I heard from someone who had life experience I could relate to, a rarity in a wellness space dominated by white voices. And she was talking about issues that affect Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC)—90 percent of the content on “The Daily Shine” is created and voiced by Black women.

“The Daily Shine” is an offshoot of the self-care Shine app, founded by Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi, two women of colour who wanted to reinvent the health and wellness space to be more inclusive and represent BIPOC.

The need for more diverse voices

The economic and political climate we’re currently in demands more representation of BIPOC voices in the podcast world. Think about it: Could a white podcast host really speak to someone from the Black community about coping with George Floyd’s murder? Similarly, it’s hard for non-Asian hosts to offer insight to the Asian community about the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. There is no doubt that many hosts (regardless of race) are well-intentioned and want to help. But it’s different when a BIPOC host speaks with other diverse guests about their emotions—the discussion becomes a shared experience.

(Related: Why Are There So Few BIPOC Therapists in Canada?)

BIPOC are underrepresented in podcasting

“The Daily Shine” has amplified the voices of the BIPOC community. A 2016 study done by the online publication Quartz reviewed more than 1,400 podcasts found on iTunes in the United States. Of those, 85 percent had at least one white host, compared with just 18 percent with at least one BIPOC host. There is a lack of diversity in podcasting, and—perhaps it’s no surprise—podcast listeners tend to be predominately white.

In 2019, Edison Research conducted national surveys via telephone with more than 5,500 people age 12 and older to analyze podcast consumer habits. The findings revealed that just 11 percent of U.S. podcast listeners are Black even though they make up 13 percent of the population; 4 percent Asian (6 percent of the population); and 9 percent are Hispanic (18 percent of the population). “BIPOC need resources outside of traditional therapy to manage their mental health,” says Jason Phillips, a Black licensed clinical social worker, certified life coach, and host of the “Peace & Prosperity Podcast.”

“Podcasts specifically geared toward BIPOC allow for conversations around mental health to be normalized and promoted,” he says. “The information shared, guests who are interviewed, and stories from other BIPOC makes the podcasts separate from the other two million podcasts available.”

A mental health podcast for people like me

“The Daily Shine” has become the sense of community I didn’t know I needed. The narrators’ voices, their empathy, and their ability to genuinely relate to the struggles that people of colour go through filled me with comfort. I related to Tiffany Walker, the primary host in 2020. (Pick a more recent episode and you’ll probably hear Mel Chanté hosting on most days.)

During the social justice protests, I felt that I needed to do more than just sign online petitions, talk to my non-BIPOC friends about the reality of systemic racism (especially in health care), and use all of my time on social media to spread awareness. I felt overwhelmed and exhausted, but the hosts reminded me that it’s okay to recharge. It’s okay to rest and practice self-care. It’s okay to feel my feelings.

(Related: Why Is It So Hard to Find a Therapist Who Gets Me?)

What to expect from “The Daily Shine”

You can download the Shine app for free and get access to a daily meditation (“The Daily Shine“), articles related to a mental health theme, and the ability to log in your gratitude. With a premium subscription ($64 per year), the Shine app gives members access to over 800 specific programs that deal with a variety of mental health issues. The podcast episodes, which run between six and 15 minutes, offer strategies to navigate everyday challenges—such as feeling overwhelmed at work or a lack of boundaries in your personal life—through guided meditations to help you cope.

Every weekday starts with an intention to set the tone for the day. For example, on Mondays, there’s usually a writing prompt that lasts about 12 minutes and helps you focus on what specific goals you want to achieve for the week. If your intention is to practice more self-care, the writing prompt will ask you what specific actions can you take to carve out “me” time.

On Wednesdays, host Elisha Mudly leads a meditation that focuses either on sound or movement. You might start by rolling your shoulders back and forth or harmonizing your breath with the occasional om. Typically, all meditation sessions end with a mantra that you can repeat out loud or to yourself to reinforce the intention set for the day. Depending on the session, you might say something like, ” I can listen to the present moment,” or “I listen with empathy and an open heart.”

Overall, the podcast is intended to calm anxiety and other feelings of restlessness and help you practice self-compassion.

The value of BIPOC podcasts

BIPOC-hosted podcasts help amplify silenced voices and give power to those who feel unseen or forgotten by society. Podcasts like “The Daily Shine” include hosts who’ve likely experienced what other people of colour have gone through. For example, Shine founders Lidey and Hirabayashi have both shared in their individual experiences as the only woman of colour (Black and Asian, respectively) in the room among white male colleagues in the tech world. Sometimes, I have been the only Latinx person in the room.

Online communities for BIPOC, like podcasts, have become a lifeline for marginalized communities, helping them feel heard, loved, and understood. Phillips agrees that podcasts allow you to feel that you’re not the only one going through a specific mental health issue. “Having the virtual/digital support is invaluable, particularly if you are in between sessions with your therapist or have not found a therapist yet,” he says. On his podcast, Phillips shares his personal experiences to encourage his listeners to practice self-reflection when it comes to their values, beliefs, and behaviours. Through this, he hopes his listeners achieve things like peace, happiness, and success.

(Related: How to Be an Ally to the Asian Canadian Community)

The mental health stigma

It’s no secret that there’s a mental health stigma in BIPOC communities. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are sometimes viewed as problems that can be easily overcome. In Black, Asian, and Latinx communities, there’s a strong emphasis on resiliency and perseverance. Mental health care does not fit this mold—it’s seen as a sign of “weakness.” But mental illness affects young adults at high rates, and BIPOC are at risk.

A total of 2.5 million young adults ages 18 to 25 had a serious mental illness, according to 2017 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 7.6 percent were non-Hispanic Asian, 5.7 percent were Hispanic, and 4.6 percent were non-Hispanic Black. Clearly, mental health issues affect everyone. And everyone deserves to find compassionate mental health care.

Barriers to mental health care

Sometimes, though, overcoming stigma isn’t enough. That’s because BIPOC with mental illness experience barriers to mental health care. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), these include lack of insurance or being underinsured, lack of diversity among mental health care providers, language barriers, and a distrust for the health care system. And the APA finds, unsurprisingly, that the Covid-19 pandemic and the stress it has brought hasn’t been easy on anyone, especially communities of colour.

(Related: 6 Ways to Fight Anxiety and Depression During Covid-19)

Destigmatizing mental health care

Free resources, like “The Daily Shine,” help destigmatize mental health in BIPOC communities. They’re becoming essential outlets where minorities, like myself, can hear their issues voiced and be given creative solutions. “Podcasts, support groups, and blogs are really popular as supplements outside of therapy for managing your mental health,” says Phillip. In his case, he’s had people reach out to him because they heard a podcast where he was a guest speaker on mental health.

How “The Daily Shine” has changed me

Over a year later and I continue to listen to “The Daily Shine” on a daily basis. I usually play it after breakfast as I sip my morning cup of tea. The morning meditation sessions are a fun way to start my day. I sit on my bed to do it—it’s the only way I can get privacy and get away from the outside world. (That said, some meditation sessions actually ask you to tune in to your surroundings to hear and see around you.)

After doing this for a year, I find that I’m kinder to myself, set boundaries when needed (I’ve gotten good at saying “no”), and approach challenges with an open mind. Sure, I still have bad days or days where I don’t want to meditate. But on a whole, this mental health podcast has made it easier to take time every day for my mental well-being. I’ve even told my friends and family how it’s changed me for the better.

I’ve realized that without first taking care of my mental health, I wouldn’t be able to lead a healthy lifestyle, no matter how healthfully I ate or how much I exercised.

Next: 4 Ways to Boost Your Mental Health During Covid-19

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Originally Published on The Healthy