June is International Pride Month, the annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community across the world. Its routes in the Stonewall uprising of 1969, Pride Month has come to be a worldwide celebration of people coming together in love and friendship, showing how far LGBTQ+ rights have come, and how in some places there’s still work to be done. More than just large parades in major cities across the UK and the world, Pride Month is a reminder of the beauty of diversity across society: whether you are straight or gay, black or white. It is as much a political statement as it is a reflection and celebration of what makes society great.
The underlying idea behind Pride Month, one ostensibly of diversity, has major application to the workplace. As the UK and global populations become increasingly mobile, diversity is now a critical factor in most communities. In fact, the World Economic Forum has stated that some of the world’s most prosperous business centres like New York, London, Dubai and Singapore are all linked in their very high degree of diversity. In short, a diverse workforce – a workforce composed of people from all walks of life, with a wealth of differing experiences and viewpoints – makes it easier to solve problems and foster a culture of honesty and inclusivity.
That is not to say that diversity does not have its challenges. Despite the global celebrations of an event like Pride Month, it would be naïve to say that we are anywhere near an equal society. Quite often, it is this very inequality that can severely impact the mental health of your employees. We saw this in response to the dual crises of Covid-19 and the murder of George Floyd. Dan Gillison, the CEO of the US-based National Alliance on Mental Illness can be quoted as saying: “The effect of racism and racial trauma on mental health is real and cannot be ignored. The disparity in access to mental health care in communities of color cannot be ignored. The inequality and lack of cultural competency in mental health treatment cannot be ignored.”
There is plenty employers can do to support their LGBTQ+ and diverse staff, such as developing a robust mental health strategy that can deal with the nuances and difficulties of mental health issues as they fall along lines of sexual orientation and diversity. An employer-funded benefit such as an EAP can really help to develop this. As an employer, it is worth asking is you are doing enough to support mental health in the workplace, whether in relation to your LGBTQ+ employees or not. Everybody has the right to good wellbeing and a healthy mind, and a supportive and compassionate workplace is key to this. While a broader acceptance and awareness of mental health has grown over the past few years, there is still considerable work to be done. This is especially true for the mental health of those with protected characteristics, where there is still a lack of awareness and understanding
As an employer, take the time to consider the mental health of your employees. If you have not already done so, it is up to you to take proactive and preventative measures to support mental health at work. The reward for getting this right is a happier, more productive workforce and a more successful organisation.