Category: Cultural Diversity / Vulnerable Populations


Mental Health Consequences of Experiences of Racial Discrimination: A Black American Sample

Friday, November 17
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom E & F, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: African Americans | Adult Anxiety | Emotion Regulation
Presentation Type: Symposium

Several studies have established the experience of racial discrimination to be a widespread phenomenon in Black populations (e.g., Bonilla-Silva, 2010; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1986; Landrine & Klonoff, 1996).  Racism at all levels, including institutional, systemic, and personally mediated levels, has been well-documented, including the data highlighting the role of racism in higher rates of incarceration of African Americans (Alexander, 2010; Bonilla-Silva, 2014), higher rates of unemployment (Bonilla-Silva, 2014), less access to quality housing, public education and healthcare (Bonilla-Silva 2014; Editorial Board, 2015; Schott Foundation Report, 2015; White, 2011). Moreover, studies have found that the persistence and pervasiveness of racism is linked to psychological health difficulties in individuals who identify as Black (Clark et al., 1999; Donovan et al., 2012; Greer, 2011; Harrell, Hall, & Taliaferro, 2003, Pieterse et al., 2014).  Given these findings, an important next step is to explore the lived experiences of Black Americans experiencing racism with a specific focus on the underlying psychological mechanisms that link experiences of racism and mental health symptoms.  The current study explores the impact of experiences of racial discrimination on mental health symptoms and psychological mechanisms in a Black American sample. 

Twenty-Eight Black American participants (2 males and 26 females) were recruited from a larger cross-sectional study, to engage in one-on-one qualitative interviews exploring the impact of experiences of racism for Black Americans.  Inclusion criteria included self-identifying as Black American and having experienced racial discrimination.  A phenomenological approach, which aims to “describe[s] the meaning of the lived experiences for several individuals about a concept or the phenomenon”(Creswell 1998, pg 51), was used to understand participants’ experiences. Themes including the impact of experiences of racism and stress, anxiety, self-esteem, interpersonal difficulties and emotion regulation will be presented. Clinical implications and future research suggestions will be made.

Jessica Graham-LoPresti

Assistant Professor
Salem State University


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Mental Health Consequences of Experiences of Racial Discrimination: A Black American Sample

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