Mental Health and People of Color (POC)

Mental health is a growing concern in the U.S. as a whole, however, people of color are 50% less likely to seek care for mental health concerns as compared to whites. And there are significant historical, structural, and interpersonal factors that cause mental health disparities by race. We designed this resource toolkit to help you design strategies to optimize your mental health and support the mental health of our communities.

Common Mental Health Challenges for POC

Trivialization

Many communities of color view mental health challenges as “First World” or “white people problems.” Because previous generations endured structural discrimination/oppression like slavery and immigration, younger people are sometimes judged for their mental health conditions and told to “get over it.” This dismissal can make people feel weak, isolated, and ashamed of their mental health conditions, worsening their mental health. 

Intergenerational experiences are subjective.Your feelings are valid despite what others may tell you. Take the time to recognize what your stress level is and manage it in a healthy and balanced way. 

The Pressures of Being One of the Few

Sometimes POC feel that as “one of the few” POC in predominantly white spaces, they are pressured to act in ways that do not reinforce negative racial stereotypes. This may lead to emotional distress. 

You are not the spokesperson for your race. Find healthy ways to express your emotion like physical exercise and talk therapy. 

“Self-Care” Viewed as Selfish

There’s a tendency in POC communities to view “self-care” activities (i.e. sleep, exercise, therapy, massage, creating and maintaining healthy boundaries, etc.) as selfish, a waste of money, and better allocated for other matters. This can exacerbate your mental health by creating feelings of self-blame. 

You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Self-care is preventative care and is worth the time, money, and energy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Isolation & Belonging

POC on the majority of campuses are less likely to describe their community as inclusive, and more likely to feel isolated. This creates feelings of loneliness that create feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. If race is excluded as a factor, communities that experience discrimination and/or oppression report higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

While it may be natural to gravitate toward people from our own race, it is most important to be around supportive people. Building community is finding a safe space where you are accepted as you are. 

Back to Table of Contents