Mental health has always been an important topic, but it hasn’t been until the past couple of years that leaders have discussed it in the workplace. This conversation is vital for all employees, but underrepresented and minority employee groups have distinct mental health needs that workplace leaders must be aware of.
Let’s take a look at 5 ways leadership can support the mental health of LGBT employees.
1. Learn about the signs of mental illness
Before you can support the mental health of your employees, you need to know what to look out for! Mental illness looks different for everyone and can be hard to detect. Here are some warning signs of mental illness:
- Changes in mood
- Lack of motivation
- An abrupt change in habits
- Difficulty concentrating
- Easily tried or extreme exhaustion
- Loss of interest in activities
Knowledge is power; by learning about the early signs of mental illness, you can better support your LGBT employees.
2. Respect their identity
Mental wellness starts at the very core of who you are. Respecting people’s identity and their right to privacy is essential regarding mental health.
LGBT employees face many potential challenges, judgments, or biases in the workforce. And while there’s no checklist on how to respect a person’s identity, here are a couple of good places to start:
- Do your research: Educate yourself on the challenges that LGBT employees face and brainstorm solutions on how to create a culture of support and inclusivity.
- Be an ally: Advocate for the health and wellness of your LGBT employees. Create policies that eliminate discrimination and build an inclusive workplace culture.
3. Provide education to your employees (and peers!)
Companies should engage in regular training on unconscious bias, mental health, gender inclusion, and LGBT identity.
Some important topics to cover include:
- Gender inclusive language
- Exploring health benefits
- Mental health
- Diversity and inclusion
A lot of times, when employees hear the word ‘webinar’ or ‘training’ their eyes glaze over because in the past, these trainings have been dull and the learnings stop after the webinar is over. As an employer, it’s important to structure these conversations in an engaging way that encourages questions and deeper conversations.
LGBT inclusion and diversity training supports stronger employee relationships, attracts top talent, decreases turnover, and creates a safe workplace environment.
4. Provide resources and inclusive benefits
There’s no one-size-fits-all benefits package. Oftentimes, benefits packages need to be tailored to the specific needs of LGBT employees. Here are a few areas where employers can offer more inclusive benefits:
- Fertility support: Adoption, in-vitro fertilization, egg freezing, and surrogate motherhood can be challenging to navigate independently. Employers should consider offering financial support and assistance to LGBT employees wanting to start a family.
- Parental leave: New parents need support as they learn the ropes of parenthood. Paid time off is essential for caring for a new child, whether that person carried the child or not.
- Healthcare: Employers can extend health benefits (medical, vision, dental) to include an employee’s domestic partner.
- Paid time off: Flexible paid time off policies are essential to care for the mental health of all employees. Sometimes, employees don’t need a doctor’s note, they just need a break.
Along with inclusive benefits, employers need to create a safe space where LGBT employees can get direct support from each other. For virtual and hybrid workers, a safe space doesn’t have to be a physical space. It can be an employee resource group that meets online or even a Slack channel where LGBT employees can openly and honestly connect.
5. Donate to organizations fighting the good fight
There’s no shortage of non-profit organizations fighting to support the LGBT community. As a workplace leader, donating your time and money to these organizations is a great way to actively support your LGBT employees.
To support young professionals and LGBT youth, consider donating to The Trevor Project. This organization provides 24-hour crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBT youth.
Your donation to the Trevor Project would help fund critical suicide prevention tools and ensure that Trevor can continue to advocate against anti-LGBT laws and work with policymakers to pass legislation that protects LGBT youth.
Allyship is a community role
We all play an essential part in helping LGBT employees feel safe in the workplace and it starts with leadership.