Identity, Belonging, and Mental Health - Counseling & Therapy Services - The Juniper Center

An exercise that’s done in Diversity & Inclusion trainings, having to do with the four dimensions of identity. (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 2003). The exercise first asks people to pick the top three dimensions they would use to describe themselves, drawing from the Diversity Wheel above. Then they are asked to list how they think others would describe them.

What often happens is that people use more of the secondary, “external” dimensions, such as marital or parental status, religion, or education level to describe themselves. When they think of how others see them, however, it is often in primary, more “internal” dimensions, such as race, age, or gender.

When the way you see and value yourself differs from way society sees you, there’s a window for anxiety and not feeling whole to creep in. It may feel like you are not understood or are not enough.

Working on Self

Counseling and therapy is a great place to work from the inside out. It can help you heal from anxiety, depression, and trauma. It can also provide a safe space to work on self-growth and self-compassion.

But we must also recognize when society is wrong and that change needs to happen externally as well.

Not Being Accepted as Who You Are Is a Form of Trauma

A 2019 study looking at data from 2010 to 2017 showed that rates of suicidal ideation and suicide planning decreased for all races. However, suicide attempts increased among black males and females and injury from suicide attempts increased among black males. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2019)

The attempted suicide rate for transgender teens is a staggering 41%. Stigma and discrimination that accompany a minority social identity are often internalized and manifest as PTSD. (If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, feeling anxiety, or have symptoms of trauma, including behavioral issues, reach out for help.)

Connect with Community – Be an Ally

June is PRIDE month, meant to recognize the sweeping impact that LGBTQ individuals, advocates, and allies have on history in the United States and around the globe. (Library of Congress). This year the LGBTQ community is leveraging PRIDE month to support the real-time efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement. (, 2020)

Embrace that another’s experience may be different than your own and build connections. Create inclusive organizations. Be an ally. Take action.


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