Have you ever had to think about whether your mannerisms will draw too much attention?
Ever worry about being outed at work, and by being outed, facing discrimination or harassment from the people you are surrounded by?
How about constantly being mindful of the words and gestures you use while in a room where you’re the only person of color because some gestures might be viewed as too “aggressive” or some words might paint you as being “angry”?
These examples are some of many that create stressful environments and conditions for members of minority groups when moving through their daily routines. Minority stress is the extra everyday stress that people from minority groups are exposed to because of their social position.
The Meyer Minority Stress Model outlines five main components that either add to or decrease the stress burden that causes negative health outcomes.
Four factors increase minority stress:
- Stressful events and conditions like in the examples above.
- Expectations of rejection and discrimination as people perceive that these stressful events and conditions will continue to occur indefinitely.
- Concealing one’s identity by trying to hide aspects of oneself to fit into different environments. This is often done to ensure personal safety while in environments where they are the minority.
- Stigma (or homophobia or transphobia) is internalized when people begin to believe, adopt, or act on misconceptions about their identity.
One factor alleviates minority stress:
- Coping and social support
Minority stress has been linked to poor mental health and is often considered an explanation for mental health disparities between minority individuals and non-minority individuals, particularly related to depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
COPING SKILLS AND SOCIAL SUPPORT CAN HELP
There IS hope. Healthy coping strategies and social support have been shown to prevent negative health outcomes due to minority stress.
Social support must focus on creating structural and systemic changes to emphasize that minority individuals belong in all environments. Community centers, work place affinity groups, LGBT safe spaces in schools, and visible representation of minority individuals in positions of leadership and power go a long way in creating environments where all identities are affirmed.
In addition, we must start to evaluate the environments we are in and the situations we create to make sure we are addressing issues that contribute to minority stress and find ways to build social support that might not currently exist.
Here are some ways you can help address minority stress:
- Create safe spaces for minority youth like Gay Straight Alliances and Black and Latinx Student Unity groups
- Show visible support on classroom doors/teacher’s desks (rainbow flags and other symbols of acceptance)
- Include sexual orientation and identity in company diversity statements/trainings
- Ensure benefits are available to all family structures.
- Offer resource groups/affinity groups
- Publicly support LGBTQ issues and issues affecting racial and ethnic minority individuals
- Have an affirming culture and work with staff to identify what this means to everyone
- General Social Settings:
- Increase visibility of racial/ethnic/sexual minority individuals in positions of authority and leadership
- Ensure minority representation is diverse and not fulfilling expected stereotypes of gender and culture
How do you see minority stress show up? What are some things you are doing to create supportive environments?
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