Managing Race & Mental Health in the Workplace

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, we spend 65% of our day working. This is why workplace wellness is one of the most important initiatives when managing mental health issues. It’s also a place where we are challenged to navigate through interpersonal relationships. The death of  George Floyd and the many others have added fuel to a flame that had already been ignited for many years and parts of ourselves that we have kept quiet or hidden are surfacing. When we become aware of our feelings and thoughts, we need to be mindful of the external circumstances and experiences that could impact our emotions even more. And for some, returning back to work has been a difficult hurdle.

“We must acknowledge that racial comments or jokes, and the systemic discrimination seen in leadership, company culture or even your inability to be authentic can have an impact on your mental health. ”

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Here are seven tips on how to address anti-racism & micro aggressions:

  1. It’s extremely important that you define your role and not allow others to define it for you. Speak when you want to and rest when you need to. 

  2. I know it is not easy to speak out against an act of racism in the workplace out of fear, but Audre Lorde said it best “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed, but when we are silent we are still afraid, so it is better to speak.”. Instead of weighing your consequence, empower your ability to cope. 

  3. Utilize your benefits, if you know you have EAP (employee assistance plan) or coverage for a mental health practitioner seek out these services as a way to help you navigate, process, and learn ways to community effectivity. 

  4. Reach out to other colleagues, you can not carry the burden of your workplace on your shoulders. Utilize management, leadership, or other colleagues to work together as a unit. 

  5. Know how you will cope with positive or negative feedback. Sometimes we don’t feel the impact immediately so develop your tool kit in advance. We don’t need to wait for something to happen to utilize our coping tools, so include this in your daily rituals.

  6. Bring in a therapist, get a consultant, create a safe and well space for employees & employers. We all deserve to be well, and we all deserve to be well at work. 

  7. Reflect on past acts of racism. This can be in the form of meditation, journaling or talking to your support system. What options did you have available to you? How did you cope with it? What needs to improve today?

If you are part of a team that can decide on who is part of your wellness package it’s important to culturally adapt it to provide options for diverse practitioners. Many people don’t utilize their benefits so make it easy for your company or yourself to bridge that gap. We spend a lot of time at work, and how we treat one another doesn’t impact us only in the office but it comes into our home, to our families and to our hearts. Be patient, and remember to show yourself compassion. This will help you find your calm amongst the current. You are deserving and you deserve to protect your energy before making it available to others.

Chantée Dardaine is the Founder of SelfCareTO and Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) with CRPO and a Professional Member with the Canadian Counseling & Psychotherapy Association. Her goal is to provide resources and advocacy about mental health to create more accessible spaces. Chantée is passionate about helping people learn how to tolerate difficult emotions so that they can enjoy a positive and fulfilling life.

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