“The stigmatized individual is asked to act so as to imply neither that his burden is heavy nor that bearing it has made him different from us; … he is advised to reciprocate naturally with an acceptance of himself and us, an acceptance of him that we have not quite extended to him in the first place. A PHANTOM ACCEPTANCE is thus allowed to provide the base for a PHANTOM NORMALCY.” ― Erving Goffman
Discrimination based upon race, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. has been going on since the beginning of recorded history. Even though quite common it can have considerable negative impact for all who are involved but especially for the subject of the discrimination. General well-being, self-esteem, self-worth, and social relations can be severely impacted as a result of discrimination. This can, in turn, result in depression.
In the U.S. discrimination against African Americans is very common. In a recent poll, 51% of Americans expressed anti-black sentiments which was increased from four years ago, African-Americans comprise only 13% of the U.S. population and 14% of the monthly drug users, but are 37% of the people arrested for drug-related offenses in America, and African Americans receive 10% longer sentences than whites for the same crimes. Discrimination against women is also common. Women on average earn 22.5% less than men, have to work for more years before receiving promotion, the greater the education level the greater the disparity, and minority women fare even worse. In addition, women are 10 times more likely to be exposed to high levels of domestic violence and are nearly 4 times more likely to be exposed to sexual harassment than men. As a society we should do everything in our power to fight against discrimination in any form. But, we also need to deal with the consequences of discrimination when it occurs.
Mindfulness practices have been shown to reduce prejudice (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/prejudice/). It has also been shown to reduce depression (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/depression/). Mindfulness has also is known to enhance positive emotions (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/emotions/) and positive emotions reduce the negative effects of discrimination. So perhaps mindfulness is related to the impact of discrimination on the individual. In today’s Research News article “Discrimination hurts, but mindfulness may help: Trait mindfulness moderates the relationship between perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms”
Brown-Iannuzzi and colleagues analyzed responses on an on-line questionnaire of perceived racism, mindfulness, depression, and positive emotions completed by community participants.
They found that “the most common source of discrimination was gender (19.7%), followed by race or ethnicity (17%), body weight (14.4%) and age (14.3%).” They also found that high levels of discrimination were accompanied by high levels of depression while high levels of positive emotions and mindfulness were accompanied by low levels of depression. In addition, high levels of mindfulness were found to mitigate the effects of discrimination on depression. Participants high in mindfulness showed less of an increase in depression when exposed to discrimination.
Mindfulness has been repeatedly demonstrated to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/stress/). So, mindfulness may reduce the negative impact of the stress produced by the discrimination thereby reducing depression. Mindfulness may also act by focusing the individual more in the present moment. Rumination about past discrimination and worries regarding future discrimination may well amplify discrimination’s impact on depression. Focusing on the present moment may make it easier to cope with the discrimination, isolating it and thereby decreasing its effects.
Regardless of its mechanism of action, it is clear the mindfulness is associated with lower depression and a lessened effect of discrimination on depression. So, reduce discrimination produced depression with mindfulness.
“One of the best ways you can fight discrimination is by taking good care of yourself. Your survival is not just important; it’s an act of revolution.” ― DaShanne Stokes
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies