July is the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, formally designated in 2008 to bring awareness to the unique struggles faced by underrepresented groups in the United States.
Bebe Moore Campbell was an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented groups. Because of her and the work of others, we know that institutional and structural racism negatively affects the mental health of racial and ethnic minorities, causing feelings of disconnection, loneliness and powerlessness; decreased trust in the government and criminal justice system; decreased hope for the future; trauma, including generational trauma; and increased “survival mode”.
Disparities in mental health status based on race and ethnicity are well documented. Examples include:
In addition, the healthcare system has not served all people in an equitable manner. Health equity was identified by the Institute of Medicine in their landmark report entitled “Crossing the Quality Chasm,” and can be described as providing care that does not vary in quality because of personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, geographic location, and socioeconomic status. It is a mark of a high-functioning healthcare system, but, unfortunately, many do not reach this standard.
So what can employers do to combat the behavioral health disparities facing minorities?
With the nation focused on racial justice, there is strong momentum for employers to address the urgent need for timely, equitable, and accessible behavioral health services, delivered by culturally competent and linguistically appropriate providers. With the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement creating new mental health challenges for everyone, employers should act now to support the needs of their employees and ultimately, the health of their organization.