Mental illness discrimination and support experienced by people who are of color and/or LGB: Considering intersecting identities

Lynn Holley, Hyunsung Oh, De'Shay Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Little is known about mental illness discrimination toward and supports for people with mental health conditions (MHCs) who are of color and/or lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB). Informed by an intersectionality framework that facilitates an understanding of intragroup dynamics, this exploratory qualitative study used in-depth interviews to ask 20 people with MHCs and family members of people with MHCs who also identified as of color and/or LGB about their experiences (a) with mental illness discrimination and supports within their identity communities and (b) in peer- and family-run programs. Participants of color reported that their racial ethnic communities commonly deny that MHCs exist and shame people with MHCs, and LGB participants said that LGB communities often exclude and stereotype them. Interactions with others with MHCs and affirmation of lesbian and gay identities serve as recovery supports within identity communities. Peer- and family-run programs provide a sense of humanization and education, respectively but are sites of heterosexism and may not address the needs of people of color; identity-specific programs are therefore desired. We describe variations in experiences related to race, ethnicity, and sexuality intersections; no differences in descriptions of mental illness discrimination in the focal identity communities emerged between people with MHCs versus family members. Implications include that efforts are needed to address discrimination in identity communities and peer- and family-run programs, and service providers need to recognize that identity intersections affect experiences with discrimination and supports. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-26
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • family support
  • intersectionality
  • mental illness discrimination
  • peer support
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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