Black and ethnic minority employees 'need more mental health support' at work

Millions of Black and ethnic minority workers feel they can’t be their ‘real’ selves at work and need more support for their mental health, according to new findings from Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England.

The research, undertaken by YouGov, among 2,000 employees and 500 business leaders reveals that almost one in five workers – some 6.5 million people – feel they cannot be their whole self at work, with people of colour reporting this most frequently.

Recent YouGov research also reveals half of Black Britons say they are as likely to have experienced racism in the workplace as on the street.

Experiencing daily microaggressions and feeling like you have to ‘code-switch’ at work can be hugely draining for ethnic minority employees, and the psychological impact of these stressors shouldn’t be underestimated.

As a result of these worrying findings, MHFA England, with contributions from the Chartered Management Institute  (CMI) and Business In The Community (BITC), has launched free guidance for all workplaces to support the mental health and wellbeing of people of colour and Black people.

The aim is to ensure everyone feels safe to be their whole self at work, and to encourage employers to support the mental health of all their staff by becoming actively anti-racist.

The organisation say that bringing together diversity and inclusion with health and wellbeing will drive transformation in workplace mental health and performance.

‘In 2020, no-one should have to leave parts of their identity at the door when they get to work,’ says Simon Blake, chief executive of MHFA England, ‘which unfortunately is the current experience for many people of colour and Black people and the impact of this on a person’s mental health can be devastating. We must act now. 

‘We are clear about the urgency of playing our part in dismantling systemic and institutional racism and have committed to doing the work to become a truly anti-racist organisation.

‘An immediate action for us was to work with our Black and people of colour colleagues, and the race teams within CMI and BITC, to develop guidance for a more inclusive and supportive workplace.

‘We believe it is important for everyone to have access to this resource, which is why we are launching it as part of our “My Whole Self” campaign and calling on all employers to become actively anti-racist.

‘My Whole Self is a campaign which aims to create a healthier workplace culture by strengthening human connections, because it’s better for wellbeing and better for business.

‘To achieve this we must all act to do more to become actively anti-racist and to ensure that every workplace demonstrates through their words and actions that Black Lives Matter.’

Sandra Kerr OBE, race director at Business in the Community, added: ‘The difficulties our country has faced this year has laid bare the systemic inequalities which can make a bad situation worse.

‘We all need our employers to play a part in supporting our mental health – and they can do that by taking a whole-person approach which takes into account our lives and challenges outside the office walls too.

‘After all, discrimination and poor mental health won’t just wait in reception until five o’clock.’

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