We are over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and although we are not yet out of the woods, the vision for and possibility of better days in our future is beginning to take shape. One of the important lessons of this past year is that all of us – and especially employers – need to pay attention to mental health. And while many of us feel fortunate and grateful for our physical health, jobs, and loved ones, we cannot ignore the effects of isolation, grief, and the stress of trying to stay physically healthy.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a time to raise awareness of those living with mental health issues, aim to eliminate the associated stigma, and encourage individuals to practice habits that support mental health and wellbeing.
Around the world, 450 million people live with mental illness, while 1 in 5 people experience a mental health issue throughout the year. The issue is even more pronounced for the LGBTQ community. LGB people are twice as likely to live with a mental health condition than the general public. Unfortunately, it’s even higher for the transgender community. Recent studies found that nearly half of transgender adults have reported suicidal ideation in the past year.
Mental health is tremendously salient for our community. All of us – companies, managers, ERGs, and individuals – must increase our efforts to support people living with mental illness and encourage positive mental health practices. In my conversations with people in the Out & Equal network, I often ask what emerging conversations and critical issues they are tackling in their workplaces. In my recent conversations, nearly every company, business leader, or advocate has mentioned mental health.
Employers that prioritize mental health in the workplace know that it is not only the right thing to do for their employees, but that it is the right decision for their businesses. Poor mental health can disrupt work by undermining job performance and communication between colleagues. Companies that create cultures of belonging and inclusion and support employees’ mental health are better suited for the future of work. Further, we are seeing some exciting practice emerge structurally linking mental health and wellbeing work with ERG plans and budgets- and that makes sense: ERGs have always been “belonging accelerators,” and provide a space for support, education and joy around who we are and how we identify. Keep an eye with us on this space, and let us know if your company is doing something we can learn from and lift up for our wider community.
This Mental Health Awareness Month let’s pause and take note of what we are currently doing and what we can improve for the mental health of our colleagues, ERG members, and for ourselves. I encourage you to review Out & Equal’s resource that contains practical guidance on how LGBTQ workers can maintain good practices around mental health and how employers can prioritize mental health in the workplace.
I also invite you to watch our Premier Panel from last year’s Summit: “Everyone’s Affected But No One Will Say So” Mental Health, Belonging and the Future of Workplace Inclusion. It was a brilliant conversation by global thought leaders and practitioners about how mental health can move from one of the most under-discussed elements of workplace belonging to a rallying point for true culture change.
Thank you for all that you do for LGBTQ workplace quality and promoting positive mental health practices year-round.
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates