Supporting BIPOC Employees’ Mental Health

July 13, 2023
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An increasing number of companies are (finally) taking their employees’ mental health seriously, but we still have a long way to go. Mental illness and distress continue to be stigmatized and looked down upon, despite study after study showing that mental health is an essential component of employee wellbeing and productivity.

While everyone’s mental health is important in the workplace, BIPOC employees may especially need more (and better) support than what they’re currently receiving. Let’s talk about why that’s the case and what we can do about it.

Why Focus on BIPOC Mental Health?

When it comes to seeking and receiving mental health treatment, there is a clear racial disparity. According to a 2021 study, about half of white Americans receive the care they need. This figure isn’t great, but the number drops even lower—significantly lower—when looking at BIPOC groups. This same study found that less than a third of people who identify as Black or Hispanic receive necessary mental healthcare, while Asian Americans and Pacific Islands were “the least likely to get help, with only 25% receiving counseling or therapy.”

Why is that?

The reasons BIPOC individuals do not seek or receive adequate mental health treatment are numerous and complicated. One major reason has to do with access. Many BIPOC people cannot afford—or believe they cannot afford—the guidance or therapy they need. Additionally, this group is much more likely than their white counterparts to be uninsured or underinsured, making mental healthcare seem out of reach.

There are also cultural and racial stigmas associated with mental healthcare. In an article for the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, mental health advocate Victor Armstrong says, “For many in the African American community, our story is one of perseverance and resilience. After all, we survived slavery; surely, we can survive ‘sadness’ or ‘anxiety.’ In this mindset, anything less would be considered spiritual or moral weakness.” He goes on to say that Black Americans are less likely to seek treatment than white Americans. This is “due in part to long-held beliefs related to stigma, openness, and help-seeking, which can make African Americans and other people of color hesitant to reach out.

This hesitancy to reach out is even more troubling if we consider the generational trauma and history of discrimination and oppression that many BIPOC Americans have faced. These factors, coupled with everyday stressors in the workplace (underrepresentation, microaggressions, etc.) can create quite a bit of mental strain on employees of color, even if their co-workers or company leaders don’t realize it.

What Can Employers Do?

For many people, work is a central part of their lives. We might spend almost half our waking hours, Monday through Friday, at the office or working remotely, and many of us end up thinking about work even when we’re not officially on the clock. Because work is such a core component of ourselves, it naturally coincides with our overall wellbeing. This means employers bear some responsibility for their people’s mental health.

So, what can companies do to better support the mental health of their BIPOC employees? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Provide access to mental health resources that are culturally competent—this means therapists that understand and can address the unique needs of diverse individuals.
  • Ensure mental health resources are available and accessible for everyone.
  • Offer counseling services virtually. This can make it easier for people to schedule appointments and to receive treatment from the comfort of their own home.
  • Encourage employees to take mental health days without stigma. Allow them to take time off from work without fear of repercussions or punishment.
  • Foster a company culture that is inclusive, equitable, and promotes belonging. Prioritize employee’s mental health, ensure their needs are met, and be empathetic towards their situations.


By implementing these measures, companies can start to prioritize the mental health of their BIPOC employees. It’s important to remember that mental health is a vital component of employee wellbeing (and, ultimately, productivity), and that everyone deserves access to the resources and support they need to be their best selves. With increased awareness and action, we can work towards creating healthier and more equitable workplaces for all.

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