Disclaimer about term BAME: We understand that some people have reservations about the term Black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME). It’s a broad term that covers diverse groups of people. However, due to the nature of the data available on this subject we have used it in this article for accuracy and consistency.
Inclusivity in mental health support
In this guide, we’ll focus on things to think about when looking after the mental health of all employees in the workplace: some key issues employers should bear in mind, and what managers can do to improve their support.
An inclusive and caring working environment is important for everybody’s health and wellbeing, regardless of their identity or their background. It’s important to make sure that all employees feel supported to speak about their feelings and experiences. When staff feel valued and respected, they are more likely to be happier at work and stay in their job for longer.
Looking after employee mental health is a key part of making sure everybody feels supported. However, it is important to make sure that any mental health support provided is inclusive. Good mental health support considers the impact that different life experiences can have on somebody’s relationship with their own mental health.
What makes mental health personal?
There are lots of different things that shape our relationship with our mental health. These include our race, faith, culture, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic status and whether we have a disability. This context affects the way people view mental health, how they speak about it, and how they access support services.
- Over a quarter of people (28%) in the workplace suffer bullying or discrimination around issues such as gender, age or sexual orientation. 82% of those affected say it has a negative impact on their wellbeing.
- Many people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds experience racism at work. A quarter of BAME employees who have experienced work-related mental health problems report that their ethnicity was a factor in their symptoms.
- Women are almost four times more likely than men to have suffered a negative impact on their wellbeing as a result of gender discrimination (26% compared to 7%).
Accessing mental health support
- Accessing mental health services can be more challenging for people from marginalised groups, such as those from ethnic minorities, and those from the LGBT+ community.
- In some cultures, talking about mental health is seen as less socially acceptable which may make people less likely to reach out for support.
However, it’s important not to make assumptions about people’s mental health, or their view of mental illness. Everybody is an individual, and views can differ within cultures and communities as well as between them.
Starting the conversation
To make sure that support is accessible to everyone, it’s important to have open discussions about mental health with your employees. Sometimes these conversations can feel uncomfortable, and you might be worried about saying the wrong thing. But, the most important thing is to make sure that the conversation is respectful.
If you’re worried about how to approach these conversations, you could reach out to people who are part of the communities and groups you want to support and ask for their input. It’s important to do this sensitively and avoid making people feel ‘singled out’.
Be prepared that you might get things wrong. The most important thing to do is listen, and to apologise if you make a mistake, even if you didn’t mean to cause offence.
There are a few ways to make sure that your approach to workplace mental health is open and inclusive.
Managing your team
- Reassure people that the conversations they are having about their mental health are confidential. This can help people who feel stigma or shame when sharing their experiences and concerns.
- Promote a culture of openness where people feel able to share their concerns in a non-judgemental and understanding environment
- If you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), make sure the providers can offer the different types of support needed by everybody.
- Think about whether the written mental health resources available are accessible to everybody. This might include having copies for people who are visually impaired, or in other languages.
- Signpost to national helplines and charities, such a Samaritans or Mind, in your workplace.
Policies and training
- Make it clear to everybody that discrimination in all forms is unacceptable. While this may already be part of workplace policies, it can be reassuring for people to see it openly spoken about.
- Offer training for managers in mental health, as well as in diversity and inclusion. 71% of people said having an approachable manager was a reason they could feel comfortable enough to raise a wellbeing issue.
Bupa has an online hub of information about mental health in the workplace: https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/your-mental-health-work
- CIPD. Diversity and inclusion at work: facing up to the business case. www.cipd.co.uk, published 20 published 20 June 2018.
- What is diversity and difference? Mind. www.mind.org.uk, accessed 23 July 2020
- Trades Union Congress. BME people still facing racism and discrimination at work, says TUC. www.tuc.org.uk, published 17 Mar 2018.
- Memon A, Taylor K, Mohebati LM, et al. Perceived barriers to accessing mental health services among black and minority ethnic (BME) communities: a qualitative study in Southeast England. BMJ Open 2016. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012337
- LGBT in Britain – Health Report. Stonewall. www.stonewall.org.uk published 07 November 2018
- Mental Health Foundation. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities www.mentalhealth.org.uk, updated 30 September 2021
- Business in the Community. Let’s Talk About Race. www.bitc.org.uk, accessed 15 July 2020
- Bupa. Workplace Wellbeing Census. www.bupa.co.uk, published November 2019