Mental Health in an unequal world

Published on: 07/10/2021


Prefer to listen? Then check out our Podcast on Mental Health in an Unequal World. 

Sunday 10 October 2021 marks World Mental Health Day, with this year’s official theme announced by the World Federation for Mental Health as “Mental Health in an Unequal World”.

The explanation for the theme by the Federation reflects on the “increasingly polarised” world, with inequalities in race and ethnicity, and gender identity highlighted during the pandemic. These inequalities can impact on people’s mental health, which in turn can impact their job prospects and hopes for the future.

Employers could therefore take this year’s Mental Health Day not just as an opportunity to review how it looks after employees’ mental wellbeing, but also as a chance to ensure that it is addressing inequalities in its own workplace.

For example, employers may focus on educating their workforce. This could be through regular and up-to-date equality and diversity training, ensuring that employees understand what constitutes unacceptable conduct and its potential impact on their colleagues. Such training should also make it clear to employees how they can report this conduct, setting out the relevant people to speak to and what the process for handling these reports will look like.

Another method could be to adopt a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards discrimination, bullying or harassment in the workplace. This should be reflected in all areas of the company, from formal statements by senior management to displays on the company website. It should also be promoted through actions, including taking all complaints of discrimination seriously and conducting thorough investigations.

Employers can also reflect on how they are addressing the issue of equal pay. The deadline to submit gender pay gap data has just passed, and there are ongoing discussions in Government about the potential introduction of ethnic pay gap reporting obligations. Employers should consider what its own data says and consider how to tackle any gaps, such as through removing prejudices from recruitment and promotion processes or improving access to opportunities.

In addressing inequality in their workplace, employers may be able to remove one of the factors that contributes to poor mental health. Care should be taken however to ensure that sufficient attention is also given to policies and practices that directly support employee mental wellbeing.

This could include training members of the management or HR teams to spot the early warning signs of a mental health issue, opening discussions with employees about how to tackle workplace stress, or providing access to employee assistance schemes.

Over the past 18 months, discussions between employers and employees around mental health have become more commonplace and more employers are starting to engage with the issue. World Mental Health Day could therefore present an opportunity to take the conversation further, addressing not just how to support mental wellbeing, but how to start tackling the causes of poor mental health.

If you need any advice on supporting your employees’ mental health or are interested in hearing more about equality and diversity training, please contact our Employment Team.

To learn more about this topic, you can also watch our Diversity in the workplace webinar.


This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking professional and legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.