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MPA Statement on The Impact of Racism and Discrimination on Mental and Physical Health

Thursday, December 7, 2017   (0 Comments)
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MPA has been concerned about the increased reports of acts and threats rooted in racism or prejudice.  As scientists and clinicians, we want to educate the public on the important research documenting the negative impact of these acts and beliefs on mental and physical health.  It is our hope that such education will contribute to ongoing efforts to increase empathy for others and combat racist and prejudiced beliefs.
The Impact of Racism and Discrimination on Mental and Physical Health

The Massachusetts Psychological Association (MPA) represents over 1,700 psychologists in Massachusetts in carrying out our mission to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare. In line with this mission, MPA condemns, in the strongest possible language, any and all threats and acts of violence directed toward people due to their inclusion in a particular racial, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious group. Racism, discrimination and prejudice are harmful, both directly and indirectly, to individuals and to our society as a whole.
Research has consistently linked chronic stress from racism and/or prejudice to a range of psychological responses, including hopelessness, diminished quality of life, social anxiety, suicidal ideation, and lower self-esteem.(1,2,3) Such chronic stress also impacts physical health and well-being, and can lead to an increased risk for physical disease and negative health outcomes.(1,3) Even perceived discrimination leads to higher rates of suicidal ideation, anxiety, and depression.(4) Thus, the impact of racism and prejudice on the health of minority groups is well-documented, and it is imperative that leaders and members of the community alike work to name and challenge such beliefs and acts.
Freedom of speech is one of the most important founding principles of this nation, and it is necessary for a strong democracy. Silencing opinions or beliefs simply because they contradict our own beliefs is a violation of this right, and contributes to institutionalized discrimination by simultaneously silencing healthy dialogue. However, speech that is rooted in prejudice has very real physical and psychological consequences that cannot be ignored, and voices supporting inclusion and humanity must not be silenced in the face of hatred and ignorance.
For additional information about ways to cope with the impact of racism and prejudice, visit the American Psychological Association's Psychology Benefits Society website. It includes information for community members and professionals on coping skills and wellness, as well as articles about how to talk to children about these issues.

1 Paradies, Y., Ben, J., Denson, N., Elias, A., Priest, N., Pieterse, A., . . . Gee, G. (2015). Racism as a determinant of health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One, 10(9), e0138511.  
2 Timmins, L., Rimes, K. A., & Rahman, Q. (2017). Minority stressors and psychological distress in transgender individuals. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 4, 328-340.  
3 Moe, J. L. (2016). Wellness and distress in LGBTQ populations: A meta-analysis. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 10, 112-129.  
4 Pascoe, E. A., & Richman, L. S. (2009). Perceived discrimination and health: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 531-554.

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