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Why Mental Health Should Be Part of Your DEI Conversation

Why Mental Health Should Be Part of Your DEI Conversation (1)

Did you know that 90% of companies globally say they focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?    

Did you know that of that 90%, only 4% of employers say they focus on disabilities as a part of their DEI standards?   

Today, I am going to specifically talk about mental health and why it should be included in every company’s DEI strategy and programs to achieve a truly inclusive workplace.   

Why it matters  

Mental health conditions impact individuals from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, identities, and demographics and play a significant role in their overall wellbeing and success. These disparities, whether temporary or chronic, affect an individual’s ability to function at work, in school, and in their personal lives. In a working environment, this in turn can affect co-workers, productivity, the company, and its customers.  

Individuals with mental health conditions often face discrimination and barriers to access in workplaces that do not include mental health support in their DEI programs. Barriers to access can include a lack of accommodations in the workplace, negative attitudes and stereotypes, and a lack of access to mental health services.  

Did you know that everyone suffers from a mental health challenge in some shape, form, or frequency? Yes, even stress is a mental health challenge. Think of the chaos and stressors caused by the pandemic, how it affected employees’ lives and families, and how it changed the attitudes, concerns, and expectations of the workforce. The fallout still lingers. You never know what challenge someone may be facing, even when you think you do.  

By prioritizing positive mental health in DEI initiatives, company executives, management teams, and HR leaders can work to break down these barriers and create more inclusive working environments that provide mental health support and promote mental wellbeing.   

4 big ways it improves workplace culture and productivity  

By positively addressing mental health, organizations help individuals achieve their full potential by making them feel welcome, comfortable, valued, and appreciated. This of course results in the individual’s ability to contribute to the overall success and wellbeing of their teams and the entire organization.  

  1. A positive and inclusive culture that prioritizes mental health leads to increased employee satisfaction, lower stress levels, improved talent retention, and higher productivity. 
  2. Companies with cultures that prioritize positive mental health in their DEI initiatives are more likely to attract and retain top talent.   
  3. Everyone, including leaders, see positive improvements in their mental health. These improvements come from positive feelings in helping others, if not from participating in mental health programs themselves.   
  4. Leadership teams that participate in positive mental health programs find that they have opportunities to be better leaders by adjusting their management styles. These changes include being more tactful and positive with direction, not being as ‘short’ with employees, taking time to explain things in greater depth for employee understanding, and being more understanding and attentive to employees’ questions and concerns.  

Other important changes companies experience within their leadership include:  

  • Less reacting to problems in a negative fashion 
  • The ability to ask more open-ended questions (teaching vs. showing) 
  • And most importantly, improvements in the elimination of unconscious bias 

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there  

As mentioned above, you never know what someone may be going through or what challenges they may be facing, temporarily or long-term. Companies with leaders who assume certain employees do not qualify or cannot be included in DEI initiatives are hurting themselves. This lack of representation is a form of unconscious bias. If you find that your leadership is failing to provide reasonable accommodations to those who need it, simply because there is an assumption that the employee has no challenges, it’s time to speak up for the good of your people and company.  

Everyone can and should be counted in DEI efforts  

The only way to have a truly complete culture of positive diversity, equity, and inclusion is to include everyone – because mental health affects everyone. In making mental health improvement programs a required part of your DEI focus, you can create a much kinder, more inclusive, and equitable environment for all.   

From recruiting to onboarding and beyond…  

Perhaps no one knows the importance of DEI in talent recruitment better than our nation’s leading executive and professional recruiting firms. In 2020, Goodwin Recruiting added “Dedicated to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” to our Core Values. We realized it wasn’t enough to have personal beliefs that support equality and diverse representation, including in mental health awareness.  

Action is the differentiator in every DEI effort and it extends beyond our recruitment process to everyday actions we take to give our people an inclusive environment – from onboarding to training, advancement opportunities, and the long-lasting employee experience. In this regard, we are like any other company. We walk the talk.  

Contact us for assistance in finding the right leaders for your executive and management team, or for more information about how to accommodate employee mental health in your DEI initiatives.