Shuranjeet Singh: Doomscrolling, Trauma, And Your Mental Health

When we see recent images, videos, and reports emerging from the farmers' protest sites we may feel hopeless and fearful.

Shuranjeet Singh
February 6, 2021 | 3 min. read

While public figures such as Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, and Mia Khalifa share their support for those protesting in Delhi we may feel a sense of hope and relief. However, when we see recent images, videos, and reports emerging from the protest sites we may feel hopeless and fearful. 

Most recently, journalists such as Mandeep Punia as well as Dalit activists like Nodeep Kaur have been detained and mistreated. Social media platforms and governments have also increased limitations on Sikh expression, particularly concerning is the silencing of those advocating for Khalistan and Sikh sovereignty. 

At such a time we may be cycling through elation and despair, but it is important to know that the protests and their struggles are ongoing. This is a long-term commitment, so we need to look after ourselves, too.

Information is not Neutral 

While initial images and videos sparked joy, optimism, and hope earlier in the year, the views into police and state violence, bloodshed, and anger have quite a different effect. 

Such forms of information are not neutral even though we may consume them thinking they are. Images, videos, and information leave an imprint on the subconscious and can raise challenging thoughts, feelings, and emotions even long after we have stopped engaging. As an endless flow of information, social media requires us to filter and process constantly. 

We are seeing more photographs and videos of violent acts. Protestors being beaten, dragged, clothes torn and lives ultimately endangered. We see bloodshed, we feel the tension, and we connect with the hurt of those on the ground. 

While the protestors’ spirits may remain unhurt, we are still consuming waves of potentially traumatic information and so we need to be extra careful in looking after ourselves and those around us.

Reigniting Trauma

Many within our communities live with the direct impacts of state violence through experiences of 1984, subsequent targeting of Sikh expression, and transnational migration. For those generations, the incessant flow of information about the protests risks reigniting deep-seated traumas they have held in their bodies and minds over the last four decades. 

We may observe them being more silent, less present, experiencing mood swings, and generally different compared to the person we usually see. These moments may be the first time they have sat with these emotions without the immediate need to survive and support their families.

For younger generations, we may experience the indirect consequences of trauma and targeted state violence which travels through generations. Whether through our parents’ emotional habits, their views on the world, their dependency on coping mechanisms, we are closely connected to the factors which have shaped them and their lives. 

We may observe ourselves feeling increasingly anxious, low, distant, and we may even find ourselves on social media more despite us knowing we will find difficult information – a phenomenon known as ‘doomscrolling’

We are all at risk of fatigue and reopening wounds we may have forgotten. I know I have felt increasingly anxious, my brain has felt foggier, and I have found myself going through periods of detachment. 

What can we do?

At such a time we can easily feel helpless. We can easily find ourselves in a spiral of challenging thinking and unwanted feelings. However, we need to listen to our minds and our bodies. 

Here are a few suggestions based on what has helped me which you may find useful:

  • Taking social media breaks: When I realised that my scrolling was without purpose I started switching off from social media and doing things I enjoy, like going out for walks and cooking.

  • Connecting with faith: I am connecting with more kirtan which refuels me. I am trying to do more Simran which helps me take time to stop and recalibrate when feeling overwhelmed. Faith is a way of connecting with something more, either individually or with those around you. For me, that is connecting with Sikhi, our histories, our revolutionaries, and our shaheeds. 

  • Connecting with sangat: Living alone I have found that impromptu chats with friends have made me feel refreshed. We have played games and existed without pressure in each other’s presence. We have also held spaces where we have explicitly spoken about the protests and how it has impacted us, a cathartic experience which made me feel less alone at this time.

While the protests are ongoing and our expression is curtailed it is imperative that we recognise when we need to take a break to rest and recuperate. We should not feel guilty when we do this. I know I would much rather be engaged for a longer period rather than burning out. 

There will continue to be ups and downs, but stay safe, look out for yourselves, and support those immediately around you if you can. 

Those we see as family, our faith, and our sangat are key to surviving in the present. 

Let our spirits continue to be high as we move forwards.

Onto the next phase, we can do this.

If you want to access support for Punjabi and Sikh communities, you can check out the following: Sikh Your Mind, Taraki, Raabt, Chetna, Kaabu, Asra and SOCH

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Shuranjeet hails from Birmingham in the United Kingdom and is the founder and director of Tarakian organisation working with Punjabi communities to reshape approaches to mental health. Shuranjeet also works as a consultant in mental health research and is an Oxford-Canada scholar studying for a masters in health policy at the University of Toronto. If you want to message Shuranjeet, you can email him at shuranjeet@taraki.co.uk or connect with him directly on Twitter (@shuranjeet). 


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