Historically marginalized communities, such as communities of color, face disproportionate challenges around access to and quality of mental health and substance use care. That is why it is crucial to consider how we can continue incorporating diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) into our Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) actions.
To better understand how First Aiders can embody these values, we asked MHFA National Trainers Shirin Bose, Katie Noble and Suzanne L. Pearlman for their expert insight.
Think about a time when someone corrected you. Did you get excited, want to learn more and start asking questions? Or did you freeze? Did you get defensive? The goal of having a growth mindset is to detach from the current outcome (e.g., using the wrong pronouns for someone) and focus on the direction in which you’re heading, which is toward increased knowledge and mutual understanding.
To foster a growth mindset, try to:
First Aiders do not diagnose or treat, and are not expected to know everything. Adopting a growth mindset allows us to provide Mental Health First Aid to individuals whose cultural backgrounds are different from our own while knowing there is always room to learn and grow.
Be mindful when providing Mental Health First Aid to someone you don’t know well. People often use language based on assumptions they don’t even realize they are making, and you may unintentionally make the person feel excluded if they don’t identify with it. Here are a few examples of inclusive language to consider incorporating into your vocabulary:
Another important note: If you’re not sure of someone’s pronouns, Katie recommends sharing your pronouns and asking directly which pronouns the individual uses. Another option is to simply address individuals by their name or use gender-neutral pronouns until someone specifically mentions which pronouns they use. Moments of discomfort may occur, but your comfort does not outweigh people’s right to be seen. Try to be open and willing to learn. Check out this blog about person-first language for more on how our words can either break down misconceptions and stereotypes or feed into them.
For more information about being a champion for DEIB, check out these related blogs or sign up for a MHFA training today!
Mental Health First Aid. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA for adults assisting adults. National Council for Behavioral Health.
Pant, B. (2016, May 23). Different cultures see deadlines differently. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/05/different-cultures-see-deadlines-differently.
Weir, K. (2021, Jan. 1). There’s a new push to reach underserved communities. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/01/trends-underserved-communities#:~:text=Marginalized%20communities%20often%20face%20hardships
Wolcott, M.; McLaughlin, J.; Hann, A.; Miklavec, A.; Dallaghan, G.; Rhoney, D.; & Zomorodi, M. (2020, Sept. 21). A review to characterise and map the growth mindset theory in health professions education. Medical Education. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/medu.14381#:~:text=Growth%20mindset%