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Supporting BIPOC Mental Health is Key to Retention and a Healthy Workplace
July is BIPOC mental health month, and amid a remote work revolution and the Great Resignation, there has never been a more prudent time to evaluate your business's support of diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly around BIPOC mental health. In addition to the stresses of personal and professional life that every employee deals with, your team members who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) also must manage added societal pressure, the weight of systemic issues, and microaggressions in the workplace. The needs of BIPOC individuals are not always the same as non-minority team members and supporting them means offering comprehensive mental health support that is culturally sensitive, relevant, and tailored to their needs. Now more than ever before, supporting BIPOC mental health is key to a healthy workplace as well as retention and recruitment issues in the time of the so-called Great Resignation. Amid these stressors, organizations must be prepared to provide BIPOC staff with increased awareness, acknowledgment, and the reassurance that they are committed to cultivating a safe workplace that enhances overall well-being, resilience, and staff retention.
Accessibility and Destigmatizing Mental Health
Accessibility and destigmatizing mental health go together when it comes to effective mental health support for BIPOC individuals on your team. For all employees, mental health support can only be effective when they can easily access it and other relevant resources. Breaking down barriers to care by offering multiple mediums, modalities, and opportunities through apps, telehealth, and live phone conversations with licensed counselors are some of the best ways to make sure your team can and will access the care they need when they need it. The same is true for BIPOC team members, however, many BIPOC individuals struggle with the stigma of mental health even more than their white colleagues. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 50 percent of white adults surveyed receive mental health services, compared to about 33 percent of Black and Hispanic adults surveyed and 23 percent of Asian respondents.
To "walk the walk" regarding employee support, your organization must understand, at all levels, that BIPOC individuals deal with a greater breadth and number of stressors than white team members. Additionally, it's important to note that mental health support will only ever be truly effective when people can access it when and how they need to. Supporting the BIPOC individuals on your team is all about accessibility and working to destigmatize mental health. Talking openly and often about the services that are available to your team members, and the confidentiality involved is important. It is also vital to have the relevant phone numbers, URLs, apps, and contact info for these resources prominently displayed and easily accessible.
Representation and Inclusion Matters
Like with any issue regarding support of BIPOC individuals in your workforce, representation is paramount. Building a diverse team across all levels of your business will be powerful in more ways than one - workers throughout the organization will see members of their community represented at all levels of the company and will feel more confident that their needs are understood, that they can seek help and counsel when needed, and that their issues are being dealt with seriously and consistently. Furthermore, when a company employs managers, supervisors, and executives that identify as BIPOC, they will naturally help to foster a workplace that prioritizes diversity of thought and that can reliably provide conscientious support to employees of all backgrounds.
Another helpful resource to consider is the implementation of Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, to give team members of all backgrounds a collective space for their community, to gather, and to ensure that their ideas are heard and their issues are dealt with. These are just some of the steps companies can take to be inclusive and supportive of all team members, and it's important to regularly check in with your staff to make sure you are offering the necessary support.
True Support Is a Constant Work-in-Progress
Turnover on your team, societal changes, and evolving attitudes in the workplace are constant when it comes to the ethnic backgrounds of your team. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for any workplace. Nor can progress be made with any one-time solution. That is why it is vital to accept and acknowledge both fallibility and responsibility.
As a business leader, manager, or owner, you should always be challenging yourself, your management, and your team members to make sure that you are offering the most helpful and very best support and resources that you can. You should also ensure that when the feedback points to a failure, you aren't afraid to try something new. You can support your BIPOC colleagues/employees in many ways that will make a massive difference to your organization - a difference that will make for a healthier, more productive workplace for all involved.
Here are some specific practices to consider in support of BIPOC individuals in your organization:
• Invest in BIPOC community and leadership - As an employer, you should strive to build BIPOC employee representation at every level of your organization. You should also support any BIPOC-led efforts within the organization to create a strong sense of community. This can work by leading to an increased sense of well-being for all BIPOC staff.
• Offer mental health benefits that work - Ensure that all your benefits prioritize cultural responsiveness, access, provider diversity, flexibility, effectiveness, and specialty coverage. It is important to take intentional steps to increase benefits with partnerships and education.
• Act with intention - Research shows that the way that organizations respond to race-related incidents can certainly impact institutional trust and employees’ mental health. As an employer, it is crucial that you acknowledge, affirm, and then act.
Even when you’re not involved in a formal manager’s role, you will need to take steps to support the mental health of your coworkers. These efforts will inform the culture of your workplace and will build a foundation for success, equity, and growth.
The Bottom Line
Supporting BIPOC mental health is key to a healthy workplace, retention, and recruitment. If companies seek a diverse and inclusive workforce, leaders will need to understand that race-based stress can be a pervasive, unique, and harmful burden for many employees. By offering and promoting mental health benefits, it is possible to promote meaningful progress when prioritizing the body, mind, and soul of BIPOC employees. Not only is it the morally right thing to do, but it's good business to value BIPOC mental health in the workplace during the time of the Great Resignation as inclusivity and equity are key to longevity and sustainable growth at a time when employees who don't feel valued are incentivized to go elsewhere. If your company is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, then this July, take time to ask how your business can support the mental health of your BIPOC staff.