Importance of Intersectionality

  • Posted on: 17 March 2017
  • By: Rachel

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the IMPACT Youth Sustainability Leadership Training in London. I would highly recommend it! It was an awesome experience, focused on helping youth with a sustainability idea turn it into reality.

My principle interest is mental health, however, I thought it would be a good match. Taking care of ourselves and taking care of our world is definitely related after all. And to me, a truly “sustainable” society involves sustainable mental health initiatives. I figured the principles of creating a wellness project would be the same across the board.

And I was right! It was an awesome weekend. I came with all passion but not much direction, and I left with a tangible plan. So all in all, pretty successful! This was exactly the kind of experience I hope to translate online on Be Change, to supplement programs like this one, or to bring it to people who face barriers to an in person experience.

I also found that there were many similarities between my thoughts, and that of the other youth at the conference who were interested in environment. For example, many people expressed the problem of having passion for their issue, but feeling overwhelmed in terms of where to start, how to narrow it down. Same!

Importantly, many people expressed frustration and genuine confusion about those who aren’t passionate about the environment. “What do they even think about?” asked one person. “Normal stuff, I guess- their friends, their families, food- they just don’t think outside themselves” replied another.

As a person who doesn’t think about the environment as much as they should, I was taken aback by this comment, but I also recognized it as familiar. I have wondered the same thing, and sometimes came to the conclusion, about people who don’t take mental health seriously. I think sometimes, when you’re so caught up in something that you’re passionate about, and spend a lot of time thinking about it, it’s hard to understand people who don’t see the world the same way. But that understanding, that everyone is passionate about something different, is key.

Most importantly, I came away with the realization that intersectionality is so, so important. Environmental initiatives should be mindful of mental health. Mental health organizations should strive to be eco friendly. And these are so many other elements, too- issues of race and gender, disability advocacy, physical health, and so much more. There are so many things to be passionate about, so many wellness initiatives to be created. And we’re always more powerful if we work together. Get rid of the mind frame that our issue is the only one that matters. Recognize our similarities. Make sure our ideas to forward one issue don’t take us backward on another. Or at the very least, recognize that different wellness visions coexist and are valid too. I think it’s only in this way that we can make a real, impactful difference. And it’s my hope that Be Change can help provide a space for us wellness people to come together.