Watch: “Racists need help” – Dr Grech

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A person who engages in racist behaviour or discourse requires help, Dr Paulann Grech, a senior lecturer within the Department of Mental Health at the University of Malta, told Newsbook.com.mt.

While discussing mental health issues and people who engage in racist behaviour, Dr Grech explained that when we speak about “xenophobia” as the name itself implies, there are elements of anxiety and fear. She remarked that engaging in racist discourse and behaviour could therefore be the externalization of this anxiety. Various factors could contribute to this feeling of anxiety, Dr Grech explained, adding that anxiety could be sparked when one fears a switch in roles. Anxiety is experienced by victims of racial discrimination.

“People who engage in racist discourse and acts, require help themselves,” Dr Grech said.

Dr Grech remarked that unfortunately we often see people using words such derogatory words against people of colour and migrants. This extreme language which is often used, could lead to more serious situations, Dr Grech warned.

A person might not be aware of the extent to which they are racists, Dr Grech said. She explained that a person might be delusional and focused on protecting their own group while at the same time excluding those who are different than them or think differently.

A racist person requires help, Dr Grech stated, explaining that there are various treatments for anxiety which do not necessarily require prescribing medicine. It might be difficult to admit that one is a racist, however, one can see the signs which show that professional help is required, Dr Grech explained.

A person experiencing such anxiety goes through five different stages which could to a situation where a person engages in ‘radical and cruel actions’. A person would first seek out to justify their actions by meeting like-minded people. The second step would be for the person to exclude anyone who is different from their circle or bubble. The third step consists of treating one’s own group well and earning their respect. The fourth stage is when the person loses empathy towards one’s target. Once empathy is lost, a person could resort to extreme and cruel actions.

“People do not grab the first pigeon they see and kill it. Empathy prevents a person from harming other living being around them,” Dr Grech said, adding that “being delusional reflects an unhealthy state of mind”.

Studies also show that when one speaks in a negative manner, they are also negatively affecting their own mental health.

11 prosecuted for hate speech in 2019

11 individuals were prosecuted for hate speech in 2019, compared to four and three individuals in 2018 and 2017, respectively. This information was tabled in Parliament by Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri in a reply to a question by Opposition MP Mario Galea.

Between January and August 2019, the Police received 21 reports on racially motivated incidents.

In April 2019, Ivorian national Lassana Cisse was killed, while two other migrants suffered injuries following a drive-by shooting on Triq il-Ġebel, Ħal Far. The murder is believed to be the first racially motivated murder in Malta. Two soldiers were charged in connection to the murder.

Video – Miguela Xuereb