How DEI & mental health intersect in the workplace

How DEI & mental health intersect in the workplace

Mental wellbeing and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts are intrinsically linked. If you’re going to make efforts toward creating a more supportive and inclusive environment in your organization, you simply cannot ignore workplace mental health. In short, employee mental health and DEI intersect in a very real way — and employers play a critical role in promoting equity and inclusivity while ensuring emotional well-being is a priority. 

Today’s workforce is stressed. So stressed that in a recent survey, 70% of respondents said they’ve experienced the most stressful working year of their lives — and a whopping 85% reported that stress and mental health strain at work negatively impact home life.

Read on to learn how to address your company’s DEI mental health needs effectively. We’re exploring the connection between DEI and mental health, challenges you should be aware of and overcome, and how to prioritize your mental health DEI initiatives to create a more inclusive workplace environment that fully supports a diverse workforce. 

The connection between DEI & mental health

The relationship between positive employee mental health and DEI in the workplace ultimately stems from a basic understanding that, to maintain a truly inclusive environment, the mental well-being of all employees must be accessible and inclusive benefits geared toward supporting it must be affordable.

Mental health is directly influenced by stressors and conditions tied to unique individual circumstances. We see this in marginalized communities, for example, where systemic barriers or discrimination contribute to high levels of stress and anxiety. Yet, too often, there is inadequate access to mental health services. In the workplace, micro aggressions and unconscious biases that target employees from diverse backgrounds can harm overall mental health. 

Concentrated DEI efforts allow organizations to recognize these connections and establish effective workplace mental health care support systems that acknowledge and address resulting mental health needs.

Challenges at the intersection of DEI and mental health

Before implementing DEI initiatives that address mental health care needs, you must become aware of the challenges you might face. 

Systemic barriers to inclusion — like unequal access to resources or denied opportunities to under-representative groups — are real issues in today’s corporate culture and climate. According to recent research, more than 28% of adults surveyed said they couldn’t get the mental health treatment they needed, and 42% said they didn’t seek care because they couldn’t afford it.  

Left unaddressed, these challenges can exacerbate feelings of isolation or alienation, further damaging psychological and emotional well-being. Becoming aware of these types of challenges can help you overcome them. 

Systemic barriers to inclusion

Marginalized groups often face systemic barriers that leave them disproportionately affected when it comes to mental healthcare. For example, those from diverse backgrounds may find it challenging to find a culturally competent therapist. Economic disparities can also limit access to care. 

Targeted DEI initiatives can start to dismantle these barriers, ensuring mental health resources are equally accessible and affordable for every member of your team.

Mental health stigma and discrimination

While we’ve come a long way, there’s still a societal stigma that can create significant challenges when it comes to mental health services. 

Whether it’s fear of bias or judgment, or worries about the impact on professional life, some employees grappling with mental health might be hesitant to speak up and ask for help. Nearly 23% of adults in the United States live with a mental health condition, yet research shows that almost half (54.7%) won’t receive treatment.

Cultivating an environment where mental health is openly discussed is a start. Offering training programs focused on education can be pivotal in breaking down stigma and creating a safe place where people feel comfortable and confident seeking mental health help when they need it.

The impact of micro aggressions on mental health

Micro aggressions are subtle insults directed at individual aspects of identity, like gender, race, sexual orientation, or other aspects. Intentional or not, microaggressions can harm psychological well-being over time. 

Education that promotes awareness and highlights the real-world impact of microaggressions is crucial to overcoming them in the workplace. Establishing clear policies against these behaviors and ensuring accountability will boost respect and safety in your workplace culture.

How to prioritize mental health in DEI initiatives

Tackling the intersection of DEI and mental health head-on means truly understanding the implications of unaddressed needs so you can identify and cater to varied needs. 

DEI initiatives create the perfect opportunity to incorporate mental health support into an organization. Integrating robust mental health services into DEI programs ensures resources are available, accessible, and affordable for all employees, regardless of background, identity, economic status, or other factors.

Understand the unique mental health needs of diverse groups

Cultural origin and life experiences will widely vary across organizations. Companies recognizing this diversity understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to mental healthcare is ineffective, insufficient, and unacceptable. 

Committing resources to address the distinct requirements of your workforce will allow you to address your employees’ unique mental health needs and work toward your DEI goals

Conduct employee surveys to gain insight into experiences, needs, and preferences. Train managers and other critical leaders on the importance of cultural competency.

Integrate mental health support with DEI programs

Integrating mental health support with DEI initiatives demonstrates your commitment to psychological well-being in the workplace. 

Offer access to specialized counseling services from experienced providers with a specific cultural background. Seek out mental health providers who can tailor services to certain identity groups, like the LGBTQIA+ population. Partnering with online mental health platforms like Talkspace will further your efforts toward integrating DEI and mental health services for all employees.

Leadership should communicate and promote opportunities for targeted care so people know about the available help.

Foster an inclusive culture that values mental health

Organizational culture significantly influences employee well-being. Cultivating an environment where people feel heard and valued is crucial to improving overall workplace wellness.

Open and honest conversations around the importance of emotional health will help destigmatize mental health needs and establish trust between employees and leadership.

Develop targeted support for marginalized groups

Focus on targeted support for identified marginalized communities and groups in your organization. This will enhance the effectiveness of any comprehensive mental health program you institute. Beyond promoting inclusivity, it will allow you to customize offerings to meet the exact needs of your workforce. 

Measure the impact of DEI initiatives on mental health

Implementing a mental health initiative is a significant first step in enriching your DEI efforts, but you’re not done there. It’s essential to take time to accurately measure the impact of your mental health initiatives to ensure you’re getting the most out of what you’re doing. 

You can measure effectiveness by doing simple things, like tracking engagement and participation, conducting surveys, and maintaining an open-door policy that encourages employees to come to leadership with their needs (without fear of retaliation). 

Create a more inclusive workforce with mental healthcare

DEI and mental health and well-being go hand in hand. Fostering a workplace environment where everyone feels valued and supported starts with creating an inclusive workforce that ensures access to mental healthcare. Supportive work environments benefit more than just the individual employee — they can also improve morale, brand reputation, profit, and retention rates. In short, investing in mental health resources is a win-win for you and your employees. 

Talkspace makes the process easy. Accessibility, convenience, and affordability are the cornerstones of Talkspace’s online therapy for employees. Talkspace makes therapy, psychiatric services, and medication management easy for anyone to access.

Reach out today to learn more about how Talkspace is changing the ways that DEI, mental health, and the workplace fit together. 


  1. “As Uncertainty Remains, Anxiety and Stress Reach a ...” Oracle Workplace Intelligence, 2020.
  2. “The State of Mental Health in America.” Mental Health America, 2023.   
  3. “Mental Illness.” National Institute of Mental Health, March 2023.

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