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Mental Health Awareness Month: Set the Stage for Healing

Mental Health Awareness Month may be coming to a close, but the challenges your team may be facing in their own health extend far beyond the month of May.

When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, disability is often one of the last identities organizations consider for their strategies. That erasure, coupled with being a Black, Brown, or Indigenous person in the working world, can leave employees feeling isolated, unheard, misunderstood, and in many cases, can exacerbate the mental health challenges they were facing in the first place.

Any strategy to eradicate anti-Blackness and White supremacy culture from your organization must take into account the whole person— mind, body, and spirit. So where should your organization begin?


Honor the Lived Experiences of Your Employees

White supremacy culture in the workplace can show up when an organization’s culture reinforces the idea that employees must completely suspend who they are as an individual once they’re at work. And should there be any spillover from the personal to the professional— for instance, a life event like becoming a caretaker, having responsibilities as a parent that conflict with working hours, or more— many leaders become uncomfortable and unsupportive.


Having policies and practices in place that give employees the flexibility and autonomy to care for themselves in the way they see fit can help to create the conditions for a culture that values employee health and wellness above all else. Practices like adding mental health days can be a start, but committing to a working culture that prioritizes and values rest will set the stage for employees to feel more empowered to truly take the time they need, and not feel bad for it.


Healing is Not a Monolith

While speaking openly about mental health and receiving support for it through things like therapy are more widely acknowledged now, it can still be a deeply personal journey for many. And for employees of color, whose experience with mental health disorders can be compounded by racism and bias, their treatment and healing journeys will not be a monolith.


While there is value in Western forms of treatment such as talk therapy, many people of color are incorporating other healing modalities into their overall wellness plans. Having compensation practices or benefits in place that can help your team in securing the support they need is one way to build a culture that prioritizes mental health.


Healing Doesn’t Happen in Isolation

White supremacy culture is one that centers on individualism. But when it comes to mental health, healing and living with a chronic condition is not something that should be experienced in isolation. While the workplace may not be the place your employees are seeking community support from, it can be a place that sets the stage for your employees to create a life that provides them with the time, resources, and energy to care for themselves.


Anti-Blackness and Mental Health

For many Black people in the workplace, and for Black women especially, grace is something that is seldom felt or received. Whether you are aware of an employee’s mental health challenges or not, be mindful that symptoms can present differently from person to person.


The attitude that you think the Black woman on your team has may be irritability, a key symptom of depression. Or how standoffish you perceive the Black man in your department to be may actually be anxiety. Leaving space for the humanness of your Black employees to be revealed, and meeting them with curiosity, kindness, and compassion can make all the difference in their journeys.


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