Counseling Center

Coping with Discrimination

The American Psychological Association defines discrimination as the unfair treatment of people and groups based on certain characteristics, such as ethnicity, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, body size, education, and socioeconomic status. Discrimination and prejudice can be overt, and at times take a subtle form. Any form of discrimination, big or small, overt or subtle, is not okay and cannot be accepted or tolerated.


Encountering and dealing with discrimination can have negative effect on one’s mental and physical health. Below are common effects of discrimination.

  • A sense of being an “outsider” from the community.
  • Perception of self as “less than” or “something is wrong.”
  • Pressure to represent one’s community and to defy stereotypes.
  • Experience of anxiety, depression, anger, and a sense of helplessness.
  • Feeling confused about whether what you experienced was discrimination or not.
  • At times you may experience physical symptoms, including decreased sleep quality, change of appetite, and sense of fatigue.


There are various strategies to help you cope with discrimination. Below are some ideas of what you can do to cope with distress brought about by discrimination.

  • Reach out and find your support group

It will be helpful to reach out to people you trust and get the support that you need to regain your confidence. You are not alone and many others are going through similar experiences. Speaking about your experience and hearing about others’ stories can be a healing process. We are stronger when we can stand together and support each other.


  • Decide what response is right for you

In some situations, you may have the strength and energy to stand up and fight against unfair treatment. You deserve to let others know that their behavior is not right. There are resources in the community that you can utilize to help you get your voice heard.

While it may feel that it is your responsibility to speak up, at times you may not have the energy or mental space to deal with it. It is okay to walk away and focus on your healing.


  • Speak up when you are ready

Don’t be afraid to have your voice heard. You can talk to UCIRO, Title IX, the Office of the Ombud to report if the incident occurred on campus. You can also share your experience with Bias Incident Report. When you are ready, you can find initiatives in the community to change the systematic oppression.


  • Engage in self-care activities

Your well-being is the key in fighting against discrimination. Find ways that worked for you before to take care of your mental and physical health. Indulge yourself in activities that bring you joy.


  • Embrace your strengths and identity

Feeling discriminated against can be hurtful, and it is important to remind yourself that it is not your fault. What happened to you was wrong and you are the survivor. Find ways to celebrate your identity. Focus on your strengths and remind yourself of your values and beliefs that made you who you are.


  • Seek professional support

Don’t be afraid to seek out mental health support. You can utilize the services at the Counseling Center and Hall Health Mental Health. Let’s Talk also provides informal consultation about your experience.