What Does Intersectionality Mean in Mental Health?

Image courtesy of Kimberlé’s Twitter

 Intersectionality

The term intersectionality, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and scholar, describes the overlap of social group categorizations (race, gender, social class, etc) and its relationships to systems of oppression and discrimination.

The term intersectionality as it relates to mental health is important as the term can help minority groups describe our experiences as we navigate our social and political worlds. As Kimberlé noted in her TedTalk, when we are unable to name an issue, we are unable to fix the issue.

Intersectionality and Mental Health

Minority groups already have a clear understanding of what it feels likes to not belong to a dominant culture. We know what it feels like to be unrepresented in certain circles. One of our most basic psychological need is belonging. When we feel like we do not belong to groups, we experience feelings of invisibility, unworthiness, loneliness, and low self-esteem and self-worth. Over prolonged periods, these negative emotions have lasting impacts on our mental health.

The importance of intersectionality is that it recognizes that people do not always only belong to a single minority group. For example, black women experience dual minority status (being black and being woman). Another example is a black lesbian woman; this person would experience a triple minority status (black, lesbian, and woman). Lastly, I’ll use myself as an example. In college, I quickly learnt that I was a triple minority. After much discourse with my African American female friends, I quickly began to understand my social status. I am a triple minority [black, woman, and immigrant (Jamaican)]. ...

5 Lessons I’ve Learnt About Natural Hair

I’ve had permed hair for 15 years. On September 16, I did my big chop. The emotions I’ve been swirling in have been a revelation for me.

The Background

When I was growing up in Jamaica, the kids around me had permed or natural hair. There weren’t braid shops on every corner to get all the different styles of braiding that are available in the US today. If you wanted braids or braids with extensions, you got whatever styles your parents, friends, or family members could do. For some, that was great. For me, it was both good and bad. I could get some styles from my mom but she kept giving me what I deemed “children styles”. By age 14, I was itching to comb my own hair – yes, 14, times were different then, okay maybe, I’m aging myself here, but you get the point. The only problem was that by the time I took over styling my own hair, I began to realize that I had no idea how to care for it. It was just the typical wash and dry with a bun. I got so desperate for something different that I added permanent color to my hair with no idea what to expect. Obviously, this was not the best idea.

At age 18, when I moved to the US, I couldn’t wait to perm my hair to make it more manageable. And for the first year or so, I had an awesome stylist under whom my hair flourished. Then at age 19, I had to have surgery and from then on, my hair has never been the same. At that age, I had to cut most of my hair off which began to change my views of my hair. But for the most part, I relied heavily on various stylists to ‘fix’ my hair. My hair evolution just ranged from braids to perms with not much contribution from me in between. ...