Discussing Discrimination Through Mental Health Lens

Discrimination and mental health

Being some significant ascribed identities, race, caste, and ethnicity remain a name stamp throughout the life of the individual. No matter how much one may try to break the shackles attached to the stamp presented by their identity, the reality, in most occasions, never allows them to do so. Although there are multiple instances of individuals from these communities radically breaking the stereotypes propagated against their well-being, the statistic is never enough. The socioeconomic status of these individuals which is actively entangled with the cultural and social disability of their identity, puts their emotional and mental wellbeing at stake.

Even after decades of legislation to obstruct discrimination not just in our country but around the globe, evidence shows multiple arenas of public life wherein minorities are subjected to unruly amounts of implicit and explicit discrimination. These instances have thus amounted to greater psychological stress than people of higher castes.

Institutional Casteism and Mental Health

Educational institutions have become breeding grounds of casteism, taking a toll on the mental health of students from minority communities. Reservations, the government’s affirmative action policy to ensure equal playing ground for all communities, also have turned into an instrument that stimulates discrimination. Most students belonging to these reserved categories hesitate to reveal their identity to their peers, as noted. They have also attached a feeling of shame and fear of being outcasted from their peer groups upon their identity reveal. This could also be due to the prevalent competency questioning that they might face, given the belief that they are not meritorious like the others.

This breeds a fertile ground for them to be looked down on, to be judged for their clothing, and their conversations and further isolating them from their peer groups. Low self-esteem, harsh self-criticism, and rigid self-valuation are also attributes found in these students. To make matters much worse, as per the data presented to the Lok Sabha in 2021, 122 students died of suicide at IITs, IIMs, and Central Universities during the period 2014-2021. Out of this, 24 belonged to SC, 3 belonged to ST and 41 belonged to OBC.

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If nothing else, this should rush questions into our minds. Documentaries and films like Death of Merit and Jana Gana Mana refer to the unfortunate incidents of caste suicides and shed light on the harsh effects on mental health that the discriminated face, ironically, while they are in the most educated lot.

Ethnicity, Race and Mental Health

Ethnicity and race of an individual also model a major part of their identity. It has, hence, been another stimulant of discriminatory practices. Just like how caste discrimination puts minorities in a vulnerable position, discrimination based on one’s ethnicity works similarly too. Researchers have found that people who have experienced ethnic and even racial discrimination are more vulnerable to adverse mental health outcomes. These discriminatory practices act as stressors in their life, contributing to mental health adversities.

Asian communities in America faced huge amounts of hate crimes and ethnic discrimination during the phase of the pandemic. These anti-Asian sentiments contributed to a huge dearth in their mental well-being and increased their psychological stress. NHANES in 2018 also found that Black Americans are prone to depression more than non-Hispanic Whites. Racism and ethnic discrimination can lead the discriminated to suffer from anxiety, PTSD, emotional distress, depression, suicidal thoughts, and other prominent mental health disorders.

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Misdiagnoses of Mental Health Disorders

Apart from discriminatory practices against ethnic and racial minorities that dip their mental well-being, they also deal with poor quality mental health services which include misdiagnoses of disorders. Negative biases against the African-American community have even led mental health practitioners to incorrectly diagnose males from the community with schizophrenia. The reason- they believe that these men are more likely to be violent and dangerous. This exhibits how personal biases could even go against the ethical consideration of the practised discipline.

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The uncertainty in diagnostic tools required for assessing minority individuals could also be a major contributor to the misdiagnoses. This further displays one among the many implicit discriminatory practices that these communities face while availing of health care facilities.

Impact of Manipur Conflict on Mental Well-Being of Citizens

The ethnic conflict between the Kuki’s and Meitei’s in the Indian state of Manipur serves as a powerful example. It illustrates how ethnic discrimination and conflict can severely impact people’s mental health. The conflict has caused 1 in every 8 individuals to suffer from mental health problems.

It has caused the state to suffer huge amounts of setbacks in terms of loss of lives and property, leading people to suffer from anxiety, improper sleep, drug abuse and agony and frustration against their fate. Experts have also commented that a lack of adequate psychological support would lead the state to encounter Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder cases in huge numbers, thus debilitating the economy and workforce. This could even bring the state to a standstill.

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Discrimination based on any ascribed identity is unjustifiable. While activists and minority politicians may go around platforms talking about reservations and equal fields for these people, what they essentially forget is what we must throw light upon. We ought to talk about the mental health implications of these discriminatory practices. Just as they have to right to avail better education, health and job facilities, they, too, have the basic right to live a life with utmost emotional and mental well-being.

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