Prioritizing the mental health of your employees is crucial for creating a supportive work environment. While everyone deserves mental health support, one group in particular is experiencing severe obstacles. U.S. workers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer (LGBTQ+) are reporting that there is a significant need for mental health support in the workplace, yet there are barriers for LGBTQ+ employees. A recent survey conducted by The Hartford and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) sheds light on the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals when it comes to accessing mental health care in the workplace.
Recognizing the Mental Health Challenges
Among adults in the United States, 7.2% identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more than twice as likely as heterosexual individuals to experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, according to the American Psychiatric Association. It’s essential to emphasize that identifying as LGBTQ+ is not a mental illness. It is an integral part of someone’s identity. However, the unique risks and hardships faced by LGBTQ+ individuals can contribute to mental health struggles such as depression, anxiety, and suicidality. Factors such as societal stigma, discrimination, and the lack of effective and compassionate care contribute to this disparity.
Insights from the Research
The research conducted by The Hartford and NAMI highlights the mental health challenges faced by LGBTQ+ workers in the workplace. The survey asked nearly 1,500 working adults about mental health and the workplace. The respondents included “an ethnicity oversample and LGBTQ+ oversample.” The study found that 47% of LGBTQ+ working Americans reported that their mental health is affected by news and current events, compared to 33% of non-LGBTQ+ workers. Additionally, 33% of LGBTQ+ workers rated their mental health as fair or poor, compared to just 13% of their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts.
Care Barriers for LGBTQ+ Employees and Workplace Support
The survey findings indicate that LGBTQ+ workers face barriers when seeking mental health support in the workplace. Approximately 45% of LGBTQ+ workers would not turn to workplace resources for help. They often find it challenging to discuss mental health due to aspects of their identity, such as sexual orientation, age, and gender identity. Previous research from The Hartford found that a majority of employers are seeing negative financial impacts due to declining employee mental health. When taken into consideration alongside the new survey data, there appears to be a connection between mental well-being, employer support, and the company’s bottom line. This highlights the need for employers to create inclusive environments that foster open conversations about mental health.
Promoting Inclusivity for Mental Health
Employers play a crucial role in supporting the mental health of their LGBTQ+ employees. According to the survey a majority (65%) of LGBTQ+ workers said that they’d like to work for an employer that prioritized employee mental health. The data also revealed steps that employers could take to break barriers for LGBTQ+ employees and foster inclusion.
Leadership Initiatives: Enlist senior leaders to spearhead initiatives that promote mental health awareness, dispel stigma, and normalize conversations about mental well-being.
Education and Resources: Provide company-wide mental health education to ensure that all employees have the knowledge and resources to support one another. This includes peer-to-peer support and clear information on where to seek help.
Evolving Benefits: Make data-driven decisions to ensure that employee benefits align with their evolving mental health needs and those of their families. Regularly assess and update benefit packages to address emerging challenges.
LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Establish or sustain ERGs dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community. These groups provide a safe and accepting space for employees, fostering a sense of belonging and support.
Breaking the Barriers for LGBTQ+ Employees
The research conducted by The Hartford and NAMI emphasizes the need for employers to address the mental health challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. By fostering inclusivity, breaking down stigma, and providing the necessary resources and support, employers can create a workplace culture that promotes mental well-being for everyone.
“As we celebrate Pride month, we are also championing the need for equitable, culturally appropriate mental health care that meets the needs of the LGBTQ+ community,” The Hartford’s Chairman and CEO Christopher Swift said in a press release. “We are sharing our data to raise awareness about this important workplace issue and inspire employers to join us in dispelling stigma, addressing disparities, and supporting the mental health of all employees.”
Remember, mental health is a diversity, equity, and inclusion issue that requires ongoing attention and proactive measures. Embracing inclusivity and supporting LGBTQ+ employees can create inclusive workplaces that empower individuals to bring their authentic selves to work.