Have you ever thought about how your environment affects your mental health as a racial, ethnic, sexual, or gender minority? In this blog we discuss how anxiety can impact people of minority status due to their environment.
Anxiety is defined as a sense of temporary worrying or fear (National Institute of Mental Health, 2015), which can often be experienced when an individual is faced with a challenging task such as a test. Individuals can experience stress in different ways; however, with the status of minority attached to an individual, it can be more difficult for people to overcome the stress.
In a study conducted by Wei, Ku, & Yu-Hsin in 2011, they found that perceptions of a college campus’ atmosphere among Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Latinx individuals, explained a relationship between minority stress and persistent attitudes in remaining in school. A school’s atmosphere can play a significant role in the process of an individual’s mental health. If the school is welcoming and inviting of other ethnicities, races, and sexual orientations, a minority student may find that they are able to transition easier than their minority counterparts who experience an unwelcoming and unfriendly environment.
In a welcoming environment, people are more likely to flourish academically as they are most likely less worried and less aware of their status as a minority. The same can happen for women in a man-dominated field. Finding groups or organizations that support your minority status, like an LGBTQ+ support group, or a women’s group, can be extremely helpful in feeling uplifted, and not feeling alone.
Minority stress is different from regular stress or anxiety, as Wei defines it as “a unique stress experienced by individuals classified as a minority.” Women-racial or ethnic, sexual, or religious minority-experience minority stress at some point in their life. With negative stigmas already attached to many of these social groups, it can be stressful for people who belong to one of these groups to not live up to a negative stereotype. Minority stress can be exacerbated when a person of minority status is in an environment where they do not feel welcomed.
If you’re struggling with feeling unwelcome or lonely due to your minority status, one of our therapists would be happy to work with you in finding a support system, or ways to process your experiences in an open and inclusive environment.
Written by: Jasmine Tyson