Directly or indirectly, mental health and substance use challenges affect everyone. But for many people in communities of color, the process of navigating these challenges – especially at work – can be even more difficult.
It is no secret that inequities in the United States have affected everything from access to mental health care to the composition of C-suites and hospitalization rates during COVID-19. After an especially trying year and in observance of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month this July, we invite employers and Mental Health First Aiders to think honestly about the state of minority mental health in the workplace.
Research shows that in the past year, Black Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services half as often as White Americans. For Asian Americas, frequency of use is even less — a third as often. Yet according to a report by McKinsey, diverse employees experienced more acute challenges during COVID-19, including increased workload or difficulties associated with work-life balance. Further, CDC data shows racial and ethnic minority groups were more at risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19, due in part to the higher rates of Hispanic and Black or African Americans in frontline industries like service and nursing.
We can and must do more to promote mental health equity in our communities and workplaces.
While far from exhaustive, here are a few ways you can support minority mental health at work:
American Counseling Association Staff. (n.d.). Minority mental health month. https://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/mental-health-resources/minority-mental-health-month
Ellingrud, K., Krishnan, M., Krivokovich, A., Kukla, K., Mendy, A., Robinson, N., Sancies-Sultan, S., Yee, Kareina. (2020, November 17). Diverse employees are struggling the most during COVID-19—here’s how companies can respond. McKinsey. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diverse-employees-are-struggling-the-most-during-covid-19-heres-how-companies-can-respond#
Larcker, D.F., Tayan, B. (2020, April 1). Stanford Closer Look Series. Diversity in the c-suite: The dismal state of diversity among Fortune 100 senior executives. Stanford Gradate School of Business. https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/publications/diversity-c-suite
Marshall, William F. III, M.D. (2020, August 13). Why are people of color more at risk of coronavirus complications? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/expert-answers/coronavirus-infection-by-race/faq-20488802
Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases. (2021, April 19). Health equity considerations and racial and ethnic minority groups. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/health-equity/race-ethnicity.html#print
National Council for Mental Wellbeing. (n.d.). Addressing health equity and racial justice. https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/center-for-consulting-training/addressing-health-equity-and-racial-justice/
National Council for Mental Wellbeing. (n.d.) Equity definitions. https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/TI-ROC-Equity-Definitions-.pdf?daf=375ateTbd56