Race, Culture Impact Employee Mental Health Discussions
Researchers at The Hartford who are analyzing employee mental health concerns found only about half of workers feel comfortable discussing mental health with their employer.
Minority populations feel even less comfortable engaging in those conversations, according to the report by The Hartford and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
More than 2,000 U.S. workers participated in the survey between May and June of 2022.
Most of the people who responded said they have experienced at least a few mental health symptoms in the last two weeks.
When asked about getting help, 30% of employees said they would not use a workplace resource.
“As more companies spotlight mental health in the workplace, creating a psychologically safe work environment that enables everyone to be part of the conversation is paramount,” chairman and CEO of The Hartford Christopher Swift said.
“Employers who prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion, invest in employee mental health, and lead with empathy will differentiate themselves in the marketplace, achieve better business outcomes, and help millions of Americans enjoy healthier lives.”
While half of white workers said they felt comfortable talking about mental health with their manager, only 38% of LatinX, and 27% of Black workers agreed.
One-fourth of Asian American-Pacific Island workers said they feel comfortable talking to a manager, and 35% said they feel comfortable talking to a coworker about mental health.
Across all ethnicities, less than half of workers said they have an open and inclusive work environment that encourages a dialogue about mental health.
While 57% of white workers feel company leaders are empathetic and genuinely interested in employees’ lives, that number fell below 50% for minority populations.
Researchers believe there are a number of factors contributing to the cultural gaps, including a lack of knowledge about available resources.
They said privacy concerns and stigma also appear to play a role in why workers do not turn to their workplace for resources.
“Our research clearly highlights how intersectional aspects of people’s identities can affect how they perceive and experience mental health in the workplace,” NAMI CEO Daniel Gillison said.
“We urge employers to act now to dispel stigma, expand access to mental health care, and provide flexibility for more workers to get the help they deserve.”
As part of the survey, workers identified areas where they believe employers can improve.
- Create a central location for access to information about mental health resources
- Communicate frequently, with easy-to-understand language about mental health
- Educate senior leadership about resources and peer support
- Engage with nonprofits and community groups who specialize in mental health education
News and current events often impact employee mental health as well.
Researchers recommend employers communicate with employees to help them cope with current events or mounting financial pressures.
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