Black-Specific Mental Challenges In Workplace

work place
Written by Beloved John

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among Black Americans with mental illness, a whopping 35.9% had serious mental illness. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health also discovered that Black Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental illness than others. According to the University of Michigan, suicide is the second most common cause of death among young Black folks.

For centuries, mental health has been seen as a stigma in the Black community. As Brothas and Sistahs, we have that unspoken rule that “anything that goes on in the house, stays in the house”. We are so careful not to wash our dirty linens outside. And that is a noble thing, I agree. However, we’ve created an environment where we ignore our mental health and pretend as if nothing is happening because we consider mental illness and therapy a “white people problem”. 

Several issues can impact the mental health of Black Americans.  The lack of psychological safety is one of the very few. However, toxic bosses, microaggression and systemic racism can all be factors that can impact the mental health of Black Americans in the workplace. In this article, we are going to explore the common mental health problems Black Folks face, their leading causes and how we can deal with them. May 2024 is Mental Health Awareness Month , there will be loads of articles around this topic. So stick with me.  

In dealing with mental health issues, you must first recognize that mental health problems exist. There is no need to shy away from it. A 2021 study titled “Mental Health and Race at Work Research Report” by City Mental Health Alliance and Lloyds Banking Group shows that about 45% of Black people have experienced racism at work while 44% of Black Asian, and Minority Ethnic workers feel the need to change an aspect of their lives and behavior just to “fit-in.” The respondents in this research also mentioned that trying to fit in has made them feel “isolated”, “anxious”, “frustrated” and “sad”. What’s worse is that 52% of Black American workers who experience poor mental health problems in the last 12 months have the issue of “not fitting in” to blame as the reoccurring factor.

The following are the most common work-related challenges Black individuals face that can lead to mental health conditions:

Stress: A good level of stress can provide you with the energy to meet deadlines and challenges at work. However, too much of it can take a toll on your physical and mental health. What are the most common causes of stress? Long and inflexible hours of work, short-staffing, overworking, several shifts, ever-increasing workload, lack of support, shortage of equipment, etc. How do you recognize that you are stressed mentally? Increased nervousness and pressure, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, trouble concentrating and unusual behavior like snapping at others or total uncontrolled changes in your mood.

Discrimination: We are in the era of psychological warfare. And discrimination at work seems to be the order of the day. It might not be so obvious but if you pay close attention, you’d notice the subtle discrimination in the workplace nowadays. Overlooked promotions, implicit bias, overly critical supervisors, and open hostility are signs of discrimination. Feelings that “you’re not just good enough” would begin to creep in because of discrimination.

Stereotyping:  How do the occasional racial stereotype jokes make you feel? Do your coworkers have conversations about ‘those people’ from ‘that area’ with disgust? And have you ever been the guilty suspect whenever something goes missing? All these are forms of stereotyping.  

Depression: Depression is not just when you feel down or when you’re in that black hole or state of helplessness. Depression is a classified mood disorder that lasts more than days and majorly interferes with daily activities. There are several symptoms of depression but you should know that these symptoms are not outright symptoms. Feeling of hopelessness about the future, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite or weight loss, having low energy, excessive feelings of guilt and low self-worth, poor concentration, etc.

Microaggression: Microaggression can come in several forms; micro-assaults, microinsults, microinvalidations, etc. Maybe you find yourself as the only Black in your wing in the office, have you noticed anyone speaking to you with a “Blaccent?” Statements like: “You’re so articulate.” Or “You’re one of the good ones” or “Can I touch your hair?” are all examples of microaggression.

How To Fortify Yourself Mentally

Dig deep into the Black American improvisation and creative response:

For example, Oakland California residents turned the incident of BBQ Becky into one big “BBQing While Black” cookout the next weekend. We did not only creatively reply to them but we also made use of our strongest weapon—THE BLACK COMMUNITY and making the best of bad times.

Create a Healthy Work-life Balance:

Learn to switch off. Take regular breaks throughout the day, and switch off your screens. Spend time with your family. Love and cherish every bit of life.

Explore and Expand Meaningful Blackness:

Black Americans who are yet to see their Blackness positively are at the risk of mental breakdown and even suicide. Your blackness is what makes you great! Do not see it as a problem. 

Eliminate racial battle fatigue:

The constant racial discriminatory events have placed Black people in a state of high arousal. This means most times we anticipate racial stereotyping even before it happens. I know it might be hard but learn to free your mind through meditation or any other spiritual means. At times expectation is the mother of manifestation. Your mind brings what you expect to the fore.

 Our mental state is just as important as the physical and should not be ignored. As Black Americans, we should know our work-related legal rights when confronting systemic racism, stereotyping and discrimination in the workplace. Each member of the Black community should work to promote an overall space and comfort zone for open conversations about mental health challenges. With this and many more, we would be able to rise above the hate and perform well at work.

For additional reading:



https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/mental-health.htm https://www.columbiapsychiatry.org/news/addressing-mental-health-black-community

About the author

Beloved John

Beloved is a dedicated ghostwriter with the wildest imagination and a knack for putting words together. With over a decade years of experience in the Fiction and Nonfiction world, Beloved John has ghostwritten over three hundred novels and over one hundred Nonfiction books. His commitment to language and communication not only pushed him into getting a degree in creative writing and holding diplomas and certificates in mental health, economics, and content writing but also sparked a desire to contribute to the Black community. As an active voice online and offline, his first locally published book “Unmasking The Warrior Within” (which he wrote in college) helped transform the lives of many in Monroe, Louisiana. The book also launched him into the world of life coaching--a field where he has ghostwritten several motivational and transformational books.

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