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LGBT mental health in the workplace

Melantha Chittenden
16th May 2019

Research conducted by Stonewall shows that half of LGBT people experienced depression in the last year and more than one in 10 trans people attempted to take their own life. We know that LGBT people’s experiences in the workplace can impact workers’ mental health. The Stonewall research also found that almost one in five LGBT staff have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues because they’re LGBT and 1 in 8 trans people have been physically attacked at work because of their identity.

At Stonewall Workplace Conference I shared with the conference ideas and best practice for employers to start to tackle mental ill health in the workplace and properly support their workers.

Knowing what people are experiencing in their workplaces and the causes of LGBT mental health problems, it all sounds pretty bleak, but that’s not the end of the story.

Things are changing – an openly gay man is running for the most powerful job in the world, we are starting to see more LGBT representation on our screens and LGBT inclusive relationship and sex education just passed into law.

While society is changing, workplaces need to change too. Here are my tips for how you do that:

1. Recognise a union

As a union we come in and work with employers – helping them to shape policies they’ve been wanting to have for ages but don’t know how to start, we help increase communication with their workforce, and increase retention of employees. Most importantly, we can come in and help employers to increase the mental wellbeing of their workforce.

At Community our priority campaign for the past two years has been on mental health, we’ve been lobbying parliament, getting employers to sign up to a mental health charter which we then support them to implement, and we’ve created a guide for our representatives, which provides guidance on how our reps can help their colleagues.

2. Mental health first aid

Second, run mental health first aid training. As part of our priority campaign we ran training in every region, and of the hundreds of members who attended, there was an overwhelming increase in confidence when talking about mental health with a colleague, and a significant increase in the knowledge around mental health.

3. Create a supportive working environment

Perhaps most importantly, create a supportive working environment where people feel they can be open and honest about how they feel and who they are. That comes from, supportive policies, managers having a supportive outlook and attitude, and spaces for people to engage with each other and have conversations that extend beyond work.

I know it feels like it’s a huge responsibility, but if you make positive changes by working with the workforce, you can have a really positive impact on the lives of employees and colleagues.

Community will continue to work with our members’ employers to achieve better mental health for LGBT workers.