Depression, anxiety, tears: the hidden cost of Labour hate revealed

EXCLUSIVE: Experts sound alarm as campaigners against antisemitism seek medical help


Mental health experts have warned of the impact racism is having on the Jewish community, as the JC reveals how campaigners dedicated to fighting growing antisemitism in the Labour Party have suffered as a result.

A series of case studies shows the effects on those at the forefront of tackling antisemitism.

Dr Shubulade Smith, clinical director for the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the issue was more widespread even than among those directly involved with fighting antisemitism: “It hurts me to the core to think about what has happened to the Jewish community. It is terrible and it is appalling.”

According to Dr Smith, the emergence of antisemitism within the Labour Party is a clear example of “institutional” racism which is “likely” to have an impact on the mental health on victims of that hate.

Former Labour member Sara Gibbs said that since speaking up about antisemtism in the party, she feels “like being Jewish has been stolen from me. I have had tearful nights, nights feeling disbelieved, ignored and alienated”, she said.  

She is one of many prominent campaigners who have spoken about how years of highlighting left-wing Jew-hate has left them seeking medical help over the impact on their mental health and suffering physical symptoms from the stress.

Miriam Mirwitch, who was elected as chair of the Young Labour movement in 2018, vowed to fight antisemitism both inside and outside the party but said antisemitic and misogynistic abuse on social media had made her feel “anxious and worthless”, which at times “you start to believe”. She added: “I’m not that open about having a hard time mentally because I am afraid to show weakness. But I do often struggle.”

A former Labour councillor, who asked to remain anonymous, sought help after speaking out against antisemitism inside the party: “Prior to 2016 I never had any issues with mental health and now I often feel like I am drowning in the negativity that surrounds the Labour Party and our community. It is utterly depressing and at times debilitating,” he said.

He was regularly subject to “abuse and ridicule” from fellow Labour members which had compounded the negative feelings he experienced. At times it felt like the Labour leadership was “ridiculing” Jewish members with “statements denying antisemitism”.

Dr Smith said the potential impact for those dealing with antisemitism was “traumatic”, and that it was natural they would have “negative” feelings about their own identity and would have a sense of “fear”.

Dr Smith said that while the racism Jewish people are experiencing in the Labour Party might not be “incidences of overt racism like being shouted at on the street, they are examples of micro aggressions that chip away at you. 

“It is the brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities,” she said. 

“It is the impact of comments made in meetings, or social media it is things tabled against you. 

“It chips away at you and your sense of being, which may result in people exhibiting hyper vigilance or anxiety.”

A report into the impact racism has on mental health by the Synergi Collaborative Centre, which examines mental health in ethnic minorities, explores the impact of such micro-aggressions. The report found: “These subtle influences can result in pessimism, and difficulties adjusting and recovering from trauma, and there is a growing and convincing body of evidence that psychosis and depression, substance misuse and anger are more likely in those exposed to racism. 

“Some people live in fear of being victimised and this can undermine their resilience, hope and motivation.”

Author and practising psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz said Labour antisemitism is causing depression in the Jewish community: “People are reading and hearing regularly about antisemitism or experiencing it in the Labour Party and they feel powerless. 

“There is this terrible thing happening and you can’t do anything about it. It creates a feeling of impotence. That powerlessness creates feelings of depression.”

Mr Grosz said that the way the Labour Party has failed to deal with allegations of racism has “exacerbated” the feelings of depression felt by some members of the community. 

“The party should be behaving like a good parent and listening to the experience of Jews as they express them but what has happened routinely is that that experience has been rejected. 

“You have the parent who is not listening and going further by favouring other children. It is normal that having your experience ignored in this way would create feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and depression.”

He added that antisemitism itself “seeks to shame Jews about who we are and what we love. Those feelings of shame can have an impact on our confidence and our self-worth”.

Omar Khan, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think-tank, said it was obvious that antisemitism was having an impact on Jews in Britain: “There is strong evidence that racism has an impact on mental health. 

“There is also evidence that racism has an impact on physical health and both physical and mental health are connected.”

He said it was “important to get people to understand that it is reasonable for Jews in Britain to be concerned. 

“People need to understand that even if one in 20 people are antisemitic that is one in 20 people that Jews are walking past every day.”

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