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Microaggressions Contribute To Depression

Several scholarly articles reveal a strong association between racial discrimination and health status among both adults and young people (Krieger, 1999, 2000; Paradies, 2006) even after controlling for economic status (Geronimus, Hicken, Keene, & Bound, 2006). Persistent and ongoing racism has been shown to result in serious health and mental health consequences (Okazaki, 2009; Priest et al., 2013). American Indians’ experience of microaggressions has been connected to depression (Walls et al., 2015) and suicidal ideation (O’Keefe et al., 2014). Whitbeck, Hoyt, McMorris, Chen, and Stubben (2001) further linked perceived discrimination with anger and delinquent behavior among Native American youths.

Microaggressions are the “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color” (Sue et al., 2007, p. 273). They appear in three specific categories (microassault, microinsult, and microinvalidation); when these three categories are collectively manifested on systematic or macro levels, this fourth category is referred to as an environmental microaggression (Johnson-Goodstar & Roholt, 2017).

Johnson-Goodstar & Roholt (2017) identified three different types of microaggressions: “Microassaults are most likely to be conscious and more public than other microaggressions and thus, are occasionally referenced as “old-fashioned” racism; Microinsults are often unconscious and characterized by communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity (e.g., a teacher fails to acknowledge a student of color); and, Microinvalidations, also often unconscious, relate to communications that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color.”

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. The expert staff at IINII can help your school-community identify microaggressions embedded in textbooks, school policies and rules and daily communications with students. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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