Blezzing Dada is a 21-year-old student, and the eldest of four children. Born and raised in Dublin, Blezzing is Black-Irish and a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and a champion for social justice. She is an award-winning writer and SeeChange Ambassador.
This is Blezzing’s story.
The biggest challenge in my life was going through homelessness last year during a pandemic, while being a student, sick, financially unstable: throughout certain experiences black woman. It was such a chaotic year.
I centre my mental health advocacy around intersectionality because we’re all not made up of one type of identity. We’re all made up of different identities and backgrounds, education and more.
My experiences of being black and being a young woman and being disabled really shaped the struggles I went through last year.
The fact that it took me going through homelessness to get the vital services I needed for mental health help in Ireland is what really inspires me to keep going so other people wouldn’t have to go through such drastic struggles to get the basic care they need.
It took a while for me to get help because I was just seen as a ‘strong black woman’ young, and that maybe I should just go out for fresh air and I’ll get better. Getting help for your mental health can stop all of the domino effect issues such as losing your job, your housing and so on which is what happened to me. Currently, I’m trying to get back on my feet. I have a social worker at the moment and a mental health team. It shouldn’t have to take jumping through so many loop holes to get all of this.
I know some people don’t like politics but at the end of the day, it’s a privilege to stay away from politics because a lot of the issues we have in society are related to suicide prevention politically. For instance, preventing homelessness is suicide prevention, having access to healthcare is suicide prevention, talking about racism in schools, and in your workplace and home is suicide prevention.
Sometimes it is lonely because I do see other mental health advocates do amazing work and challenging these conversations but not in the way I want them to sometimes. I do connect to other ethnic minorities in the UK and the US but in Ireland I really hope that the more we keep having these conversations, people will realise that unfortunately everything we do is political from the food we eat to the house we sleep in to the income that we make. When people do start to understand intersectionality, they’ll see that it’s not just a term for ethnic minorities but a term for everyone.
A lot of us are one pay cheque away from homelessness and we aren’t discussing these issues. People are going through so many struggles.
There’s anti-blackness in the healthcare system, the education system, in the disabled community, in the LGBTQI+ community.
Looking for a job is hard sometimes, because being black, I sometimes think to change my name or code switch in talking, due to unconscious racial bias. Being disabled as well, it’s not as easy to look for work, especially not as obvious. All those things were in play together in the same year.
A lot of people, when they think of discrimination they think of the biggest things, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement. Some people were aware of racism only last year. I’ve been aware of racism my whole life of lived experiences.
At the moment, the biggest experience of racism for me is medical racism. It’s horrendous.
Being a woman in Ireland and having our health taken seriously is hard enough, but being a black woman on top of it is trying to battle the two things at the same time. Not only was I told as a woman that I was ‘too emotional’ but as a black woman I heard ‘do your parents proud, they came to Ireland to give you a better life’.
A lot of ethnic minority kids in Ireland are first generation. Many feel as if we’ve such expectations to live up to so our parent’s efforts don’t go to waste. Our parents when through war, poverty, femicide and etc to bring us to Ireland, so “what are we doing being depressed in a first world country?” would be the lines in mental health awareness
A lot of healthcare professionals would not be aware of these types of scenarios. It can be a one box fits all approach a lot of time. All I can do is keep moving forward but in a way that I still challenge these things so other don’t have to experience it the way I did.
If someone was in my exact shoes right now, I’d be honest and say it’s going to get worse before it gets better. You can’t have rainbows without rain and storms. But also, despite the circumstances you’re in, it’s not going to be like this forever.
It’s scary going through something by yourself. I don’t have family support and I live alone, but the kindness of strangers has gotten me through this year. My key message would be – go to places where you’re celebrate rather than tolerated. No matter what situation you’re in, there’s always people who will be fighting your corner and who love and care for you enough to try and find solutions. This is why I do what I do, because there’s probably an ethnic minority out there struggling with their mental health but there isn’t the representation out there. I was always told growing up that mental health was a white issue, and was asked why was I copying them. But everyone has mental health. It doesn’t discriminate.
I’m proud that I’m still trying, still waking up each day. Sometimes you might not know when things will get better, but just knowing that you’re on the road to trying to find solutions is an achievement in itself.
Blezzing Dada on A Lust for Life ‘The Selfie Show’ (Episode 2- Courage)
Blezzing Dada SeeChange Ambassador ‘Understanding Exclusion’