Shine cofounders Naomi Hirabayashi (left) and Marah Lidey (right). Image Source: Courtesy of Shine
As women of colour, Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi didn't feel their unique experiences were being addressed in the world of wellness, and they didn't feel people who looked like them were portrayed in that world, either. "We started to recognise that our experiences with our emotional health were largely coloured by our backgrounds and were not really being addressed in an open way, particularly in the media," Lidey told POPSUGAR. So they started their self-care app Shine with the goal of increasing access to — and representation in — mental health.
Lidey met Hirabayashi, her cofounder, while working at a nonprofit. They soon acknowledged that they struggled with some of the same challenges, such as daily stress and anxiety. They also bonded over the "feeling of imposter syndrome, or what we now call 'representation burnout,' which is the experience being the only one of something in a room: the only woman, person of colour, the only queer person," Lidey told POPSUGAR. Wellness felt inaccessible to both of them. "Whether it was our skin colour or body type or past traumas, the way that we carry ourselves, the way that we spoke, it felt like wellness was this one-dimensional thing that we really didn't have access to."
The support that Lidey and Hirabayashi gave each other inspired a platform to help others. What began as a text-based service of affirmations in 2016 is now the No. 1 Black-owned self-care app — a label the company showcases in its social media bios. "The app essentially is meant to be your daily self-care check-in," Lidey explained. Its offerings include the Daily Shine, a free "podcast meets meditation" that comes out on weekdays and is rooted in different themes related to what's happening in the world (COVID-19 and racial injustice, for example).
The tie-in to current events is what sets apart Shine's meditations. For instance, you might see a generic meditation about anger on another platform. But "the anger feels really different right now if you're a Black woman who is in a mostly white workspace than if you're a white man and angry at a different kind of issue," Lidey said. "All of your emotions are coloured by both who you are and your life experiences, and what's happening in the world."
There are free meditations in Shine's library, but you can become a Premium member for £11 per month or £53 per year, which will give you access to over 800 of those specific programs and "help you to go deeper within mental health issues," Lidey said. July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and 20 percent of the money from Shine Premium subscriptions and gift cards will go to four nonprofits supporting BIPOC mental health: the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM), the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Colour Network, the Foundation for Black Women's Wellness, and Sista Afya.
Shine also offers a collection of meditations in the Shine app specific to Black well-being and mental health (seen in the screenshot below). Topics include healing trauma, showing up to fight for racial equality, and dealing with representation burnout. You can download the Shine app for free from the Apple store and Google Play, or get started on join.shinetext.com.
Image Source: Shine
If the need for Shine wasn't already apparent, Lidey pointed to the fact that Black people are more likely to experience serious psychological distress and that treatment is less accessible to them for a number of reasons. On top of that, she said, "we know that because of structural and systemic racism, there's something called 'racial battle fatigue,' which speaks to anxiety and worry and hypervigilance, and the physical consequences that come from experiencing racism on an ongoing basis."
Not only is the Black community experiencing mental health issues at a greater rate, Lidey pointed out, but they are also "experiencing them more deeply." That's why she says it's significant that 90 percent of Shine's content is created by Black women, 80 percent of the Shine team identify as BIPOC, and 30 percent identify as Black. "The most important thing when we think about what it looks like to prioritise Black mental health is authentically representing that experience and speaking to that experience," she said, "in ways that are not pandering and are coming specifically from Black voices."