Stories of Girls’ Resistance

Trauma, mental health crisis and burnout:

When all that she is holding and all that she is moving implodes

Trauma, mental health crisis and burnout:

When all that she is holding and all that she is moving implodes

Girls and young people often have little resources, considering financial circumstances and accessibility of services, to get the mental health and wellbeing support they need to heal from trauma.

Often deepening trauma and leading to burnout, is an all too common expectation of self sacrifice for the movement at the expense of people’s wellbeing. People become boundaryless for the cause, put their own needs aside; provide support for other people who are in crisis; and take on the role of a superhero who can carry the burden of all without consequence. This can lead to depression, anxiety or other forms of mental health impacts; poor physical health; and sheer depletion. It turns some people away from movements as the only way to survive. And for some, it leads to cultivating and sharing practices of self, collective and community care, pulling from ancestral traditions and healing methodologies.

Because a lot of times activism is born out of trauma. Well that has its own fuel and drive, that can be dangerous in a sense, because a lot of times we don’t deal with our traumas before we start dealing with the trauma of others. When we have community that can help us wage some of the negative repercussions of us trying to be that Superwoman that us Caribbean women have to be in the face of adversity.


I would love that there were resources put aside for healing because the work we do includes all of us and we cannot be talking on behalf of people when we ourselves are so broken


I think that especially women because they are so culturally taught to just help your equals and always put them in front of yourself. There’s this idea that is being shared often, and among young girls, that you just need to put somebody else first, and I think that… this is the part that I recognize myself in so many other activist stories, this is where it comes from. I’ve heard so many stories of activists burning out, of people who just did so much that they ended up getting sick, or they ended up being depressed or something like this.


Just doing this work is a mental health hazard. And yet therapy is expensive. My dream is we get to a point where there are psycho therapeutic spaces for resistors to access, maybe at a small cost.


At some point you feel like you can’t fight anymore. Like you’ve gone through something so big, you can’t fight anymore. You’re actually really done. You reach a point – it’s actually a breaking point – you reach a point and you’re like, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I’m done fighting.” I start hearing voices and I feel like I’m going crazy over something which is just, you see you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. But everything, every time I reach that point, I tell myself, “You never know how strong you are. And being strong is your only choice.”


I’m having to heal from being an activist. There is nothing – and you know it’s interesting because people are talking about this, people who have years and years in the movement are talking about – so now what? What do I have? On the other side of the journey, what do I have? Not what policies were passed, not what programs or awards, not talking about that shit. What we’re talking about is again – the gut level. What do I have? Not money, not houses, not capitalistic trinkets, what do I have? Is my heart ok? Is my blood pressure ok? I’m telling you – we need to retire from that struggle bus, struggle porn is what I’ve been taught. We need to retire from it. We don’t get anything out of it before we are cold in the ground from fighting and being on the front lines of everything. Before we are cold in the ground, people have forgotten our names and moved on to the next thing. Gotta reclaim – reclamation of my body, reclamation of my time, reclamation of my spirit, reclamation of my resources, reclamation of my existence.

United States of America

That was the point where I really started questioning everything around me, I couldn’t get myself going, and it was a really difficult time for me. And I was almost going into a phase of depression where I was, you know, even suicidal. There were moments when I kind of wanted to cause myself harm. There were certain things that I did as well. So then, I kind of realised my situation, and I went to a friend, a very close lecturer, and I was able to transition out of it. I started focusing on a lot of other things – I overbooked myself so that I wouldn’t have to worry about other things that made me unhappy. But then I had to go through a phase of self-reflection and actually I finished my degree, started working and then I was eventually able to move out of that phase. And now I don’t feel like I’m an adult, I still feel like I’ve gone back to that girlhood.

Sri Lanka

My dreams for myself change. Right now, I am tired of working full time. I am just tired and exhausted. I love what I do but I feel burnt out. But then, you know, when you get the opportunity to have access to funding for your work and you’re like oh my god for the next 3–5 years you are literally drafting a proposal and a plan that this is how a young women’s leadership program will run. Then I become excited again because I think of how many lives this could change.