Discrimination and Hate Crime – How to protect your mental health
Higher education can be an eye-opening and inspiring time for many. You may be in a brand-new city with a fresh set of friends, or you could be jumping into an exciting course that you have always wanted to start while juggling a part-time job.
However, for many students, their experience can be tainted by discrimination and hate crimes that are unfortunately on the rise.
The Office For Students reported that far too many students feel unsafe and unsupported during their time in higher education. Many students suffer prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and violence on account of their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, faith, or disability, and too many are victims of hate crime.
It is vital that higher education providers have robust policies on discrimination, hate crime, and how to properly and appropriately support victims.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission indicated that within universities 20% of students had been physically attacked and 56% had experienced discrimination.
What is Discrimination?
Discrimination is the biased, unjust, or prejudicial treatment of someone or groups of people based on characteristics like race, gender, age, or sexual orientation.
If you have been treated differently by others based on any of the below characteristics, you could have experienced discrimination.
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage or civil partnership
All these characteristics are protected by the Equality Act 2010 and if you have faced prejudice because of these characteristics, you can report or make a complaint to your higher education institution.
What is a hate crime?
A hate crime is a crime where the victim has been targeted because of hostility or prejudice towards their disability, gender, race, faith, sexual orientation, or transgender identity.
Victims of hate crimes are not always members of a group at which that hostility is targeted. For example, someone who campaigns for the rights of transgender people but is not transgender themselves could be a target for hate crimes.
Hate crimes can come in the form of physical assault, verbal abuse, and incitement to hatred.
How can this affect students?
Higher education is a tricky time for many with a lot going on. Many students find it difficult to juggle their educational demands, family life, socialising, and a lot of people work on top of all that. It’s not a surprise that adding discrimination and hate crime issues will majorly affect students and cause unnecessary, additional pressure.
Students who have experienced hate crimes or discrimination can feel debilitated, insecure, and isolated. It can affect confidence, ability to concentrate, and even the ability to complete their course.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission commented on the effects on university students stating that the effects are seriously damaging and students with huge potential are being left behind, with their grades suffering, a negative impact on their mental health, and, in some cases, not finishing their course at all.
What should you do if you have been discriminated against or experienced a hate crime?
Under the Equality Act 2010, educational providers have a lawful obligation to take appropriate action when a student has been discriminated against or if they have experienced a hate crime.
Complaints should be made through correct processes and providers must have a comprehensive system for students to report a hate crime. All students should feel as though they can make a formal complaint without any barriers if they have experienced discrimination or a hate crime.
Protecting your mental health in the face of discrimination and hate crimes
Safeguarding mental health should be a priority for all. Of course, you will never be able to control other people’s actions, however, you can control the way you react and look after yourself in the face of adversity.
If you are a victim of discrimination or a hate crime, here are some ways you can alleviate mental health worries:
1. Report it
If you have been a victim of discrimination and/or a hate crime, you may want to report or complain about the incident. Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone for their characteristics, such as race or gender.
Think about what you are trying to achieve, do you want an apology or financial compensation? Do you want things to be put right or new policies put in place?
Contact your higher education institution to discuss how to formally report discrimination and/or a hate crime and detail as much information as possible, including how it has affected you and your studies.
2. Keep a record of discriminatory actions
Make a detailed note of every discriminatory action that you have experienced. Remember to write dates, times, and as much information as possible.
On some occasions, the mind copes with excessive amounts of stress by dissociating. Dissociation can affect memory and recollecting details from the event can be detrimental if you are reporting the discrimination or hate crime.
Self-care is incredibly important for mental health and without it someone can suffer from anxiousness, depression, and burnout.
You may feel as though you don’t have enough time for yourself while still in full-time education. It can be hard juggling your studies, social occasions, family, and working part-time.
However, it is essential you save some time each day for yourself to do something you enjoy.
See self-care ideas below:
- Go for a walk around your favourite park
- Listen to an interesting podcast
- Meet a friend for coffee
- Read your favourite book or magazine
- Take a bath or a long shower
4. Discrimination says more about them than about you
Humans naturally categorise people. However, discrimination and hate crimes are unacceptable and should be taken seriously regardless of the severity.
Discrimination and hate crimes mostly stem from fear and lack of understanding which often generates wrong bias and hate. Always remember that someone’s prejudice is never about you, it is about them and their insecurities, lack of understanding and tolerance.
As Gordon Brown said, ‘I hate prejudice, discrimination, and snobbishness of any kind- it always reflects on the person judging and not the person being judged. Everyone should be treated equally.’