U-M Counseling and Psychological Services

As an agency, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) remains committed to the celebration and promotion of diversity in all its forms.  We condemn oppression in every form and work to provide a safe, welcoming and affirming environment for all persons.  Creating and sustaining a welcoming campus climate requires mutual respect for all.  And that means discrimination and harassment are not acceptable at the University of Michigan.  At CAPS, we remain committed to affirming inclusivity, value, and belonging of all students.  In response to the increase in bias incidents on campus, we wanted to provide support, resources, and empowerment to those impacted in our community.

What is a bias incident?

A bias incident is conduct that discriminates, stereotypes, excludes, harasses or harms anyone based on their identity (such as race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, age or religion). Bias often stems from fear, misunderstanding, hatred, and stereotypes. These may be intentional or unintentional and may or may not be a legal act. When identifying a bias incident, the focus is on the impact on an individual or group, not the intention or motivation of the actor. However, it remains extremely important to condemn these acts, hold people accountable, and promote restoration, learning, and growth.

Campus Climate Support Team

The University of Michigan Campus Climate Support Team provides support for those who have been targets of or impacted by a bias incident. The Campus Climate Support Team (CCST) works to ensure that appropriate university resources and expertise are consulted and utilized as incidents impacting the community occur. If you are or know someone who has been a victim of a bias incident or hate crime, consider reporting it and seeking support. Reports can be made to the UM CCST through the Bias Incident Support Services webpage. The Dean of Students Office and CAPS are all here to support you. Remember that the Bias Team and CAPS are required to maintain confidentiality.
  • Mental Health and Discrimination
    • According to the 2016 University of Michigan Campus Climate Survey on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, one in six students at the University of Michigan felt discriminated against in the past 12 months. Gender identity (20%), racial identity (20%) and political orientation (21%) were the most frequent reasons students reported experiencing at least one discriminatory event followed by social class, national origin, sexual orientation and disability. University of Michigan’s CAPS 2016-2017 Mental Health Survey also explored the impact of discriminatory experiences on campus on students’ mental health. The results of the survey demonstrated that (1) the more frequently students experience discrimination on campus, the higher the perceived stress; (2.) the frequency of and levels of stress from discrimination are related to negative psychological outcomes (i.e., increased depression and anxiety), and (3.) traditionally marginalized groups of students reported greater frequency of and stress from discrimination, indicating greater psychological vulnerabilities.
    • Discrimination is a major public health and social justice issue. Data supports that racism and racial discrimination adversely affect mental health, producing depression, anxiety, and heightened psychological stress in those who experience it. In a 2015 Stress in America Survey, people who have faced discrimination rate their stress levels higher, on average, than those who say they have not experienced discrimination. Chronic stress can lead to a wide variety of physical and mental health problems, and perceived discrimination has been linked to issues including anxiety, depression, obesity, high blood pressure and substance abuse.
    • Furthermore, discrimination can be damaging even if you haven’t been the target of overt acts of bias. Regardless of personal experiences, it can be stressful just being a member of a group that is often discriminated against. The anticipation of discrimination creates its own chronic stress. People may even avoid situations where they expect they could be treated poorly, potentially missing out on educational and job opportunities.
    • Microaggressions, or snubs, slights and misguided comments that suggest a person doesn’t belong or invalidates one’s experiences, can be just as harmful to health and well-being as more overt episodes of major bias. People on the receiving end of day-to-day discrimination often feel they’re in a state of constant vigilance, on the lookout for being a target of discrimination. That heightened watchfulness is a recipe for chronic stress.
    • The University of Michigan remains committed to promoting a diverse, inclusive, and equitable campus. In particular, the 2016 DEI 5-year strategic plan works to enhance diversity, increase inclusiveness of the academic community, and promote greater equity throughout campus. In collaboration with students, schools, colleges, and other units, Counseling and Psychological Services strives to develop a diverse, inclusive and multicultural community.
  • Support For Students
    • When an incident occurs surrounding identities, it can feel extremely painful. One can feel a significant amount of fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. After an incident occurs, a kind of post traumatic stress syndrome can develop. Emotional and psychological signs of trauma may include shock/denial/ disbelief, anger irritability/mood swings, guilt/shame/self-blame, or feelings of sadness/ hopelessness. Some consequences may be
      • A sense of being isolated or an outsider
      • Pressure to “prove oneself” and defy stereotypes
      • Stress related to being seen as a “representative” of one’s community
      • Feeling fearful, anxious, frustrated, helpless, depressed, or angry
      • Considering dropping out or transferring to another school
      • Difficulties with concentration and motivation for classes
      • Being unsure or confused about whether one is being treated differently because of race or ethnicity
  • If the trauma does not resolve and causes you significant distress, it can develop into post traumatic stress disorder. Hence, it is extremely important to take steps to self-care after emotional and psychological trauma. Reach out for support, and know you are not alone. The Dean of Students Office can provide academic support and accommodations and work to ensure accountability for unacceptable behavior. Healing is a process and your own journey. Remember- you belong, you matter, we care. We see you, we hear you, we support you. We encourage engaging in intentional self-care, finding community and support, and feel empowered.
  • Self-Care
    • Prioritize yourself and your well-being.
    • Remain nourished with healthy food and drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol in excess or substances that would be harmful to your health.
    • Aim for eight hours of sleep at night.
    • Breathe deeply and find ways to relax. Try journaling, mindfulness, yoga, or meditating.
    • Move your body to allow pressure to escape whether that be stretching, dancing, running.
    • Make time to do the things that bring you energy and joy.
  • Community
    • It’s extremely important to have social support. Connect with people who are supportive, empathetic and open. Process your feelings with them.
    • Find someone safe to be with you after a hard day.
    • Join groups where you feel belonging and acceptance.
    • When ready, reach out and work to support others as well.
  • Know When To Disconnect
    • Disconnect from triggering sources, interactions, or other situations that could cause distress for you. Avoid social media comments, TV, or “click-bait” that increase anger or frustration.
    • Unplug from social media- take breaks. Aim for a balanced media diet. Don’t focus on the really bad news- gravitate towards the good news as well.
    • Walk away from unproductive or harmful interactions.
    • Bookend tough days- do self-care before and after difficult situations or events so that you feel supported.
  • Empowerment
    • Notice and honor emotions. It is important to acknowledge and validate feelings so that you can heal.
    • Surround yourself with people that validate, affirm, and value you.
    • Celebrate your voice. Stay or get involved in organizations, activities, or activism that bring you joy, meaning, and happiness.

If you are struggling or wanting help to process your experience, reach out.  Talking to a loved one or a professional can help you work through painful emotions and feel supported.  

Know that CAPS is a free, confidential resource available to students.  You can reach out to CAPS (734-764-8312) by scheduling an appointment, utilizing our counselor-on-duty service, or calling CAPS After Hours.  If you are away from Ann Arbor, you can also use the CAPS After Hours line.  You can also connect to a mental health community provider.  

Coping with Incidents of Hate and Bias

Self-Care For Incidents of Bias and Injustice

Self-Care Tips for Social Justice Activists, Advocates, and Allies

To learn more being a social justice ally, please visit Intergroup Relations (IGR) or Growing Allies (MESA)