Every July marks BIPOC Mental Health Month, a time to focus on the unique challenges and experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color when it comes to mental well-being.

While mental health awareness is crucial year-round, BIPOC communities face additional hurdles in terms of their mental health, from racial trauma to limited access to culturally competent treatment. By openly discussing BIPOC mental health, we can foster a more inclusive and supportive work environment where everyone feels comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.

In today’s important blog, we explore BIPOC mental health and offer actionable steps your organization can take to support BIPOC employees.

Why is it important to talk about BIPOC mental health?

We celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month in May. Some may ask, “Why do we need to celebrate BIPOC Mental Health Month separately when we’ve just had an entire month dedicated to mental health?”

But it’s important to understand that BIPOC — an acronym that includes Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color — faces unique challenges when it comes to mental health. Although, of course, BIPOC are included when we talk about general mental health awareness in May, it’s also important to highlight the unique experiences that affect BIPOC mental health (and access to treatment) that do not affect white people equally.

In the workplace, it’s important to talk about mental health, and BIPOC mental health specifically, because mental health is something that affects every employee. Long gone are the days in which we were expected to keep work life and the rest of our lives — including mental health issues and racial identity — separate.

Managers now understand that to build a psychologically safe workplace, employees must feel free to bring their whole selves to work without fear of judgment. BIPOC have worked for so long in corporate cultures that required them to change themselves to be accepted. BIPOC employees may feel that mental health issues could further OSTRACIZE them.

By openly talking about and uplifting BIPOC mental health, both during July and throughout the year, you make it clear that BIPOC employees are accepted and welcome in your organization just as they are.

Issues and challenges that affect BIPOC mental health

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, but unfortunately, we’ve seen that the mental health system – just like every system – does. BIPOC face unique challenges in their daily lives that affect their mental health. In addition, BIPOC experience barriers to mental health treatment that make it more difficult for them to get the help they need and deserve.

Here are some of the unique barriers and challenges that many BIPOC face in terms of mental health.

Racial trauma

BIPOC continues to experience the effects of racial trauma, historical and current. Not only do many BIPOC, including Native/Indigenous Americans and descendants of enslaved people, experience the far-reaching effects of generational trauma — but they also continue to be the target of racial harassment, microaggressions, and institutional racism.

Research shows that this racial trauma has led to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in many affected BIPOC. PTSD can heighten the risk of other mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

Cultural mistrust and lack of culturally appropriate providers

As of 2019, 70% of U.S. social workers, and nearly 90% of mental health counselors, were white (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). This matters because many BIPOC have a mistrust of the U.S. medical system, and white practitioners in particular – a mistrust that, unfortunately, has been well-earned throughout history.

Language is also a barrier for BIPOC who have immigrated from other countries. Mental health providers who speak languages other than English are scarce. Research shows that limited English proficiency predicts significantly fewer mental health treatment visits.

Therapists, at large, are working toward improving cultural competence and humility, and increased cultural understanding between therapists and their clients has been linked to better treatment engagement. But until the psychological workforce becomes more diverse, this mistrust is unlikely to go away completely.

Lack of insurance

In the United States, a lack of health insurance is also a significant barrier to mental health treatment access for BIPOC. Nearly 20% of Hispanic people, and over 10% of Black people, are uninsured, compared with around 6% of whites. This is likely due to multiple complex factors, including economic disparities.

Without health insurance, BIPOC individuals often don’t have a way of covering the cost of mental health treatment services.

How your organization can support BIPOC mental health & employees

Your organization can take significant actions to help support BIPOC mental health and improve treatment access. Reports show that most individuals access mental health treatment through their jobs. In addition, satisfaction and happiness at work can significantly affect mental health for all employees.

Here’s how to support BIPOC mental health in your organization, not only during July but throughout the year.

Raise awareness

Having open and honest conversations about mental health is one of the cornerstones of creating a supportive and psychologically safe workplace. BIPOC Mental Health Month can serve as a starting point for ongoing discussions throughout the year.

Organize workshops or invite guest speakers to address the specific challenges faced by BIPOC communities. By integrating mental health awareness campaigns and resources into your company culture, you can normalize seeking help and reduce mental health stigma.

Review DEI policies

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies are crucial for building a workplace that embraces BIPOC employees. Review your existing DEI policies with a focus on mental health. Do they include provisions for reasonable accommodations for mental health needs?

Good DEI policies and practices are also important to ensure that BIPOC employees feel emotionally safe at your company. Consider trainings, including unconscious bias training and anti-racism trainings, to ensure managers understand how microaggressions can impact BIPOC’s mental well-being.

Build and encourage employee resource groups

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) provide a valuable support system for BIPOC employees. These groups can offer a space for shared experiences, fostering a sense of belonging and community.

Encourage the creation of BIPOC-focused ERGs, or support existing ones through funding and resources. Having a strong support system at work can help BIPOC employees feel safer and mentally well.

Ensure good mental health benefits

Helpful and accessible mental health benefits are essential for supporting BIPOC mental health as well as the mental health of all employees.

Review your current health insurance plan to ensure it provides adequate coverage for mental health services. Consider offering options with lower deductibles or copays for mental health treatment. Including Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) is also important. EAPs offer confidential counseling and resources, and can play a key role in helping BIPOC employees find culturally competent care and navigate the complexities of the healthcare system.

MINES offers a comprehensive workplace mental health solution that provides culturally competent care for all of your employees.


To your wellbeing,

The MINES Team