Supporting LGBTQIA+ mental health at work
Supporting your employees’ mental health and wellbeing is increasingly more important for employers, HR professionals, and line managers. As part of this, it’s essential to address the mental health challenges that LGBTQIA+ individuals disproportionately face, including their unique experiences that may impact their mental health in and outside of the workplace.
Due to LGBTQIA+ people often experiencing societal prejudice and discrimination – both first hand and seeing it done to others in their community – LGBTQ+ people are at a higher risk of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.
Sean Renshaw, Moorepay’s Product Manager and co-founder of Moorepay’s LGBTQIA+ network Moore Visibility, discusses this topic based on his lived experiences.
Understanding the challenges
As a gay man, my own journey can attest to some of the unique mental health challenges that members of the LGBTQ+ community often experience. I didn’t come out until my early 30s, driven by a striving for ‘normality’ that I now recognise was internalised homophobia.
Working on the railway in the early 2000s, I saw first-hand how workplace discrimination can unfold. A fellow train driver, the only one who was openly gay at our depot, was subjected to continual bullying, inappropriate language, and gossip. This experience was more than enough to deter me from revealing my own sexuality.
Subsequently, when I joined the army, I again felt compelled to keep my sexuality a secret. Even during training sessions intended to foster inclusivity for gay soldiers, the message was clear: being gay was better kept to oneself, if not outright grounds for leaving the service.
The impact of a supportive team
My first experience of comfort when disclosing my sexuality at work wasn’t down to any corporate policy or initiative, but entirely due to the team I worked with. Their diversity and acceptance created an environment where I felt safe to be my authentic self – and this has only continued since joining Moorepay in 2018.
This is a potent reminder that the people around us can significantly impact our comfort and confidence when “coming out” and being our true selves at work.
How to support LGBTQ+ employees with their mental health
To combat these deeply ingrained issues, fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace requires a two-pronged approach: addressing the root causes of discrimination and providing ample support for those affected.
Creating a safe, supportive, and respectful workplace environment is paramount to LGBTQ+ inclusion, safety, and wellbeing.
Companies should invest in training programmes that educate employees about LGBTQ+ identities and experiences to reduce discrimination and prejudice, and promote empathy and understanding. Enforcing a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination and harassment, bolstered by a comprehensive and transparent reporting system is equally critical. Employees need to feel reassured that there’s a rigorous process in place if they need to report instances of discrimination, bullying and harassment. Plus, this can serve as a deterrent for anyone who might display these toxic behaviours.
Creating supportive structures
A range of services are available to help employers foster a supportive environment. One invaluable tool is the Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs). These schemes are designed to help employees manage personal and professional problems affecting their job performance, health, and mental and emotional well-being.
For employers, HR advice line services offer crucial support, serving as a first port of call for dealing with complex workplace challenges. These services can assist in handling grievances and creating inclusive policies, which fosters a safe and respectful environment.
Furthermore, establishing dedicated support groups and mental health initiatives aimed specifically at the LGBTQ+ community can be highly beneficial. These could take the form of in-house support groups, external professional services, or partnerships with local LGBTQ+ mental health organisations.
Making LGBTQ+ employees feel valued and included is crucial. Recognising important dates such as Pride Month, hosting diversity and inclusion events, and creating employee resource groups can significantly contribute to a sense of belonging and inclusion.
Of course, this can and should extend to other minoritised groups as well to create a holistically inclusive organisation.
Offering health benefits
Inclusive health benefits should be a top priority for employers. This includes providing mental health services, gender-affirming care, and coverage for same-sex partners. To do this, employers should consider partnering with benefits platforms that can offer health-related benefits that cover these services, or alternatively work with their current benefits platforms to include them.
Building inclusive spaces
I truly felt the impact of an employer’s advocacy when I joined a workplace with an active LGBTQ+ network. This network was not just about tolerance; it was about celebration and advocacy, promoting visibility and providing support. It was here that I realised the transformative power of having an employer who doesn’t just accept, but actively champions diversity.
Today, I am proud to be a council member of our own group Moore Visibility, brilliantly organised by Karis Lambert. Our mission is to foster a workplace culture where everyone feels accepted, valued, and proud. We strive to replicate the advocacy I experienced, to ensure that our environment is not just tolerant but actively inclusive.
In our diverse society, supporting the mental health of all employees is not just the right thing to do — it is also good for business. Companies that foster a supportive, inclusive environment reap benefits in employee morale, productivity, and retention. As we continue to celebrate Pride Month and beyond, let’ us persist ‘s continue to champion these values and strive to make a positive difference in the lives of our LGBTQ+ colleagues.
If you’d like to read more on this topic, read our article on queer joy and why representation matters. This content was created by our LGBTQIA+ network Moore Visibility, and you can find out more here.