July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, and what’s most important is to carry that awareness into every month of the year. Given the hardships our colleagues who identify as BIPOC have faced these past 18 months, it is necessary for individuals and organizations to educate themselves on how to best support them both in and out of the workplace.
The Ad Council is committed to not only providing a safe and healthy environment for its employees, partners and audiences but also providing resources and raising awareness on issues that are focused on and intertwined with BIPOC mental health issues through campaigns such as Sound It Out, which addresses middle school mental health (with a focus on the needs of Black and Latinx youth), and Love Has No Labels, which addresses bias, discrimination and hate.
As the advertising industry reckons with its own systemic racism, one lesson has become increasingly clear to leadership: To reach diverse audiences, organizations must be representative of those audiences. They also have to acknowledge the challenges that BIPOC teammates face and be cognizant of their mental health in order to set their employees up for success.
Here’s a look at the three main ways to offer that support.
DEI Department Initiatives
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a department within an organization whose purpose is to enact programs and policies that encourage representation and equity for all diverse groups.
Over the past 18 months, agencies and organizations have expanded their DEI departments, published anti-racism commitments and accelerated their push for overall diversity, equity and inclusion.
Each of those three words in the DEI acronym is important—diversity is just one step. Once hired, BIPOC employees often go unheard, or are asked to stand as representatives for their respective communities. They often deal with stereotypes, microaggressions, discrimination and the lack of opportunities afforded to their white peers. All of which are issues that can greatly impact the mental health of people identifying as BIPOC.
Successful DEI departments hold individuals and organizations accountable for fair hiring and promotion practices, equal pay, and providing a respectful and healthy work environment—all of which will have an undeniable positive impact on the mental health of their BIPOC employees. Through a combination of active listening, engagement and action, DEI departments can also create supportive spaces such as employee resource groups.
Further reading (and viewing) about DEI departments and initiatives:
- What Is DEI? (Inspire Human Resources)
- DEI Initiatives: How to Prevent Your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives from Becoming Just Another Bandwagon (ELI)
- How to Get Serious About Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace (Janet Stovall)
Employee Resource Groups
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are employee-led groups that are meant to serve as a safe space for people to talk about their experiences both in and out of the workplace. They also activate during a time of crisis to further support and represent the staff within them. This can include organizing group therapy talks with a licensed specialist, holding educational seminars and speaking with upper management to find solutions for organizational issues.
ERGs are not exclusive to BIPOC individuals—they can be formed around any other marginalized group within an organization, allowing members of these groups to come together and affect change within their organization.
Further reading (and viewing) about employee resource groups:
- Understanding Employee Resource Groups: A Guide for Organizations (Sarah Cordivano)
- How to Foster Belonging Through Successful Employee Resource Groups (Rebekah Bastian, Forbes)
- Workplace Mental Health: All You Need to Know (For Now) (Tom Oxley, TEDx)
Destigmatizing Mental Health Conversations at Work
From the loss of a loved one to destabilizing current events, there are many situations that can negatively impact a person’s mental health—and can’t be checked at the door at the start of the workday. Add in the discrimination, microaggressions and systemic racism that BIPOC people face, which can compound their mental health struggles, and it’s clear that organizations create space to talk openly about mental health and the specific issues BIPOC teammates may face.
Further reading (and viewing) about destigmatizing mental health conversations at work:
- Day to Day Experience of Emotional Tax for Women and Men of Color in the Workplace (Catalyst)
- Are You Offering the Mental Health Benefits Your BIPOC Employees Need? (HBR)
Photo: Good Faces / Unsplash