Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion at Work

This year's focus on diversity and inclusion makes it even more important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month the right way, while also investing in your Hispanic and Latinx employees and helping them overcome barriers to mental healthcare.

Written by
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Michelle Rojas
Associate Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Clinically reviewed by
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A Hispanic man with a green sweater and a lanyard speaking to a group of colleagues at his job

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    We all feel the impact of the Hispanic-American community and spirit in our daily lives, from art and activism, to much of the food that appears on our tables.

    Hispanic Heritage Month is observed every year between September 15th and October 15th, as a way to celebrate the achievements, cultural impact, and historical challenges of millions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans. 

    This year’s theme is Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation. 

    The NIH writes, “Our diversity is our strength, and our contributions to the culture, the economy, and the future of our nation cannot be denied. We are a varied community, from many different areas and climates. We speak different dialects and have different traditions.”

    The focus on diversity and inclusion makes it even more important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month the right way, while also investing in your Hispanic and Latinx employees and helping them overcome barriers to mental healthcare. 

    The significance of celebrating at work

    Cultural celebrations can help foster respect and appreciation among teams. Recognizing the unique culture, values, and historical challenges of the Hispanic community can strengthen empathy and respect. This also shows your Hispanic and Latinx employees that you're committed to honoring their cultures and communities.

    This is particularly important at work, where feelings of wellbeing are directly related to feeling valued and appreciated. 

    Partnering with your Hispanic and/or Latinx ERG

    As a first step, partner with your Hispanic and/or Latinx ERG to kick off the planning process, but don’t expect them to take on the entire initiative. This could feel burdensome, especially if they’re a visible minority at your organization. 

    Here are three questions you can ask:

    • How would you like to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, as a company?
    • What kind of celebration feels right and meets the needs of your ERG and other Hispanic and/or Latinx employees?
    • Exactly how and how much would you like to be involved?

    If you don’t already have a dedicated ERG for your Hispanic and Latinx employees, now is an opportune time to facilitate the creation of one. ERGs create a sense of connection, belonging, and shared purpose, providing a space for employees to network and share ideas. 

    Celebrating the right way

    There are so many ways to celebrate, and what’s right for each organization will look different. As you begin the brainstorming process, here are five ideas you could use as a starting point. 

    Create a dedicated Slack channel

    For the rest of the month, encourage your Hispanic employees to post educational articles and personal stories about their heritage, family history, what they love most about their culture, and their favorite ways to celebrate with family and friends. 

    Encourage everyone at the company to get involved

    You can do this through the dedicated Slack channel, and also by sending out communication from leadership, to show how much this matters to the entire organization. 

    Host an online or in-person event

    Ask your Hispanic and/or Latinx ERG who they’d like to invite to speak, or what kind of event they’d like the company to host. This could be an excellent learning opportunity for all employees, while also encouraging diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging

    Give all employees the option to take a day off to volunteer

    Work with your ERG to put together a list of local nonprofit organizations who could benefit from some extra help. You could also organize an official volunteer day as a way of creating greater connection between your employees. 

    Donate together, as a company

    Allow your ERG to choose the organization, and then arrange a company-wide fundraiser. Consider matching the employees’ donations up to a certain dollar amount. 

    Share educational information and resources

    Partner with your ERG to post about important Hispanic and Latinx historical figures and the long-lasting impact of their work on your dedicated Slack channel. You could even develop Zoom banners to encourage team members to highlight these notable figures during internal and external meetings. 

    Consistently invest in your Hispanic and Latinx employees

    To truly celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s critical to go even deeper. This is a time to examine your company culture, and how you’re investing in your Hispanic and Latinx employees. 

    Begin with honest self-reflection, asking questions like:

    • Are there Hispanic and Latinx employees in positions of leadership at your organization? 
    • What does the wage breakdown look like? Are most making the lowest salaries?
    • Are Hispanic and Latinx employees being compensated fairly for the value they bring to your company? 
    • Can they bring their authentic selves to work?

    Also consider having leaders host confidential employee listening sessions with your Hispanic and Latinx employees, asking questions like:

    • What do you love about working here, and what keeps you here?
    • In the past few months, when have you felt the most motivated or energized in your work?
    • Do you feel you have the tools, resources, and/or mentorship to support your professional development? Why or why not?
    • Do you feel your career path is clear here? Why or why not?

    Lastly, create opportunities for mentorship and support. Take an honest look at hiring and salary practices, and whether Hispanic and Latinx employees are treated equitably in your company. If they’re not, commit to taking action right away.

    Unique barriers to mental health support 

    In the U.S., 35% of Hispanic and Latinx adults with mental illness receive treatment each year, compared to the average of 46%. This is because of many unique barriers to care, which include:

    • Language barriers—plus a lack of culturally competent providers and diversity of care
    • Socioeconomic status and a lack of health coverage—17% of Hispanic/Latinx people in the U.S. live in poverty, with a higher risk of mental illness
    • Acculturation—how thoroughly they have embraced or adopted the predominant culture of the place they live
    • Stigma—Hispanic/Latinx people tend to be very private, and talking about mental health issues is often viewed as taboo
    • Machismo—a concept associated with a strong sense of masculine pride and self-reliance 

    Overcoming the barriers to seeking support

    One of the steps you can take to help your employees and their families overcome these barriers is to create mental health awareness at your organization. While this isn’t easy, it’s a vital place to start. 

    Mental health, especially depression, plays an integral role for many types of physical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. When you educate employees about what mental health really is, and show them they’re not alone, they’re more likely to see support. 

    Greater levels of awareness can also increase the chances for early intervention, which often results in a faster recovery.

    Encouraging leadership and employees to share their mental health experiences, struggles, and victories can normalize talking about these issues, and reduce the stigma. This can also show that mental health is an essential part of wellbeing— just like a healthy diet, sleep and exercise. 

    The way you facilitate awareness is just as important as the steps you take. Demonstrating the behaviors that underpin inclusion—curiosity, empathy, listening, humility, and empowering others—will lead to higher levels of engagement. 

    Consider an innovative EAP

    If a Hispanic or Latinx employee decides they’re ready to seek support, will your EAP provide the help they need? Will they have fast access to a diverse network of culturally competent providers, along with human guidance for choosing the right provider? 

    If not, it may be time to consider implementing an innovative EAP. 

    An EAP like Spring Health offers a diverse network, so your employees can find a provider that has a similar background and life experience. All providers use evidence-based tools and medicine along with tracking outcomes so we know how members are doing throughout treatment with us. 

    Our average wait time for a first therapy appointment is less than two days, and less than a day and a half for a next medication appointment. 

    Plus, our care navigation is offered by licensed, masters level clinicians to help guide an enrolled employee along their journey. Enrolled employees have unlimited access to their dedicated Care Navigator, offering both inbound and outbound support to help with any of their concerns.

    Read this blog next to discover how innovative EAPs break down barriers to mental health and drive up utilization.

    About the Author
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    Michelle Rojas
    Associate Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

    Michelle is a Corporate Social Worker and passionate about unlocking access and opportunity for marginalized groups. Prior to joining Spring Health, Michelle led DEI at mission driven companies and social enterprises like Imperfect Foods and Hot Bread Kitchen. She is an East Coast native and currently lives in Denver Colorado with her partner and two dogs.

    About the clinical reviewer
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