Middle Eastern and North African Students

The Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) community is a diverse group of people encompassing individuals from various ethnic/racial identities, nationalities, languages, and religious affiliations. Despite this unique cultural diversity, the MENA community has often been referred to as an “invisible” minority group as the United States government does not formally recognize the MENA community as a minority group and categorizes them as White. Interestingly, recent studies show that many MENA individuals, regardless of the United States racial classification system, do not self-label as White (Awad, Hashem, & Nguyen, 2021). Unfortunately, the lived experiences of this group are not fully captured or understood with the current racial classification.

Common Stressors for the MENA Community

The MENA community has experienced a sharp increase in ethnic discrimination and hate crimes following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the 2016 United States presidential election. Specifically, this group has experienced

  • Increases in ethnic discrimination at various levels
    • Interpersonal (i.e., verbal and physical threats or assaults)
    • Institutional (i.e., employment and immigration discrimination, Executive Order 13769 or commonly known as the “Muslim Ban”)
    • Cultural (i.e., negative news reporting and media coverage)
  • Concerns over increasing political tension between the United States and MENA countries
    • worries of safety for friends and family living abroad
    • intergenerational transmission of trauma that further compound the effects of ethnic discrimination
  • Cultural barriers in seeking mental health services, such as mental health stigma, complicate the ability for MENA individuals to seek help when it is needed