Supporting Mental Health for a Culturally Diverse Workplace

MEFA Panel (5)

On Tuesday evening, Medialab hosted a panel discussion in collaboration with Media for All (MEFA), on how to build mental health support for a culturally diverse workplace. What ensued was a thoroughly engaging and interactive session where we detangled how mental health is considered in different cultures and the negative impact of mental health support when given from a place of cultural insensitivity. Although we covered a range of topics from identity to code-switching, there were a few recurring themes of significance:

  • Communication – echoed frequently, the ability to effectively and sensitively communicate with your peers on their mental well-being was a top priority. Get to know your colleagues as individuals, as often our prejudice and internal bias influence how we speak with our peers. We are prone to ascribing harmful stereotypes before we’ve even spoken, which naturally has adverse effects on individuals and their experiences in the workplace.
  • Your frame of reference – Understand what your frame of reference is on a particular issue and question if that influences the way you support your peers from culturally diverse backgrounds. It’s easy to employ a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health, but this can be harmful in cases where cultural identity, race and religion intersect. Ask questions from a position of cultural sensitivity to aid your understanding, rather than offering blanket solutions.

In the concluding comments of the panel discussion, it was highlighted that we need to give ourselves space to heal and avoid pushing down the issues that trouble us and give voice to our worries. The worst thing we can do is let an issue repeatedly occur until it becomes normal. This is easier said than done, which is why the final recurring theme is so important;

  • A top-down approach is crucial – building a safe space in the workplace is not as simple as calling it a safe space, it requires active work. It is understood that the idea of a ‘safe space’ is ultimately an inherent feeling, but the onus is on senior leadership to create an environment where this is felt. This can be done through but not limited to, policies, resources, and training. It needs to be embedded in the company’s infrastructure.

We want to say thank you to MEFA for working with us to make this event happen, with an extended thanks Nikki Sehgal for helping us with logistics and Marcus Orme, our CEO for being a wonderful host. Finally thank you to our panellists, Jaspreet Kaur, author, educator and spoken word artist, Karen Charles, Senior Support Advisor at NABS UK, Lex Lovell, a Mental Health First Aid training instructor at Fresh Perspective and Catherine Falla, Medialab’s Head of HR.

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