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Portrait of a smiling, older Black man in a work apron at an outdoor restaurant
July 7, 2022

Five Steps for Mental Health Equity in the Workplace

Stephen Massey

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, or BIPOC Mental Health Month, an important opportunity to acknowledge and take action to address the unique mental health needs of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

What you need to know: Mental health challenges vary by community.

  • Black and Hispanic people face similar rates of mental health disorders as white Americans—but their depression is likely to last longer, and their access to care and quality of care is likely to be worse.
  • Among adults who say the COVID-19 pandemic worsened their mental health, Black and Hispanic adults were much likelier to report not getting the mental health services or medication they needed.
  • Meanwhile, multiracial Americans report the highest rates of mental health distress.

What you can do: Employers are in a position to help.

  • The workplace itself can be a source of mental stress, including from discrimination (whether intentional or not), pay imbalances for workers of color or a culture where employees don’t feel supported to be their whole, authentic selves.
  • Along with improving access to mental health benefits and treatment, these are all within an employer's power to change.

Take action: Here are five steps you can take to center equity in your company’s workplace mental health strategy:

1. Pay livable wages and address other sources of financial stress. Low wages are the top cause of work-related stress. And people of color are significantly more likely to work in low-wage positions.

2. Ensure your employees feel heard—and that you hear from all communities. Survey your employees and engage your company's employee resource groups (ERG) to better understand the unique needs within your workforce communities and identify tailored solutions.

3. Familiarize yourself with the challenges faced by employees from specific groups, and take appropriate action. Black, Hispanic, Asian American, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Alaska Native communities face unique mental health stressors as a result of both current and historical discrimination.

4. Embrace authenticity in the workplace. Inviting people to be their whole, authentic selves in the workplace can reduce stress and promote social connection and greater engagement with the job.

5. Prevent discrimination and bias in the workplace. Discrimination at work is a major source of stress.

Our Workplace Mental Health Playbook has additional details and recommendations for mental health equity, expanding access to benefits and treatment and creating a culture of psychological safety for all employees.