Microaggressions: The experience of individuals with mental illness

Heather J Peters, Haley N. Schwenk, Zachary R. Ahlstrom, Lyndzie N. McIalwain

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Scopus citations


    The main objective of the study was to investigate the types of microaggressions experienced by individuals with mental illness (MI) based on this marginalized group status. This study included 4 focus groups, comprised of 18 individuals diagnosed with MI(es). The researchers qualitatively identified four themes (a) conveying stereotypes against individuals with MI (i.e. assumptions of inferiority, seeking attention or being dramatic, assumptions of coldness, bringing MI upon themselves, and using MI as an excuse), (b) invalidating the experience of having a MI (i.e. doubting existence, doubting severity, and avoiding acknowledgment of the MI), (c) defining a person by their disorder, and (d) misuse of terminology. Participants revealed the main perpetrators (i.e. family, friends, and professionals) of the microaggressions. The researchers discuss: how the identified themes compare to the three categories of microaggressions (i.e. microinsults, microinvalidations, and microassaults); similarities and differences between the current results and previously identified racial, gender, and sexual orientation microaggressions perpetrated in daily interactions and in therapeutic settings; and the perpetrators of microaggressions as they relate to prejudicial attitudes and social distance. Finally, the authors make recommendations for practitioners and researchers.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)86-112
    Number of pages27
    JournalCounselling Psychology Quarterly
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 2 2017


    • discrimination
    • mental illness
    • microaggressions
    • stereotype
    • stigma

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