Members of both the Black and LGBTQ+ communities are at higher risk for mental illnesses due to factors such as systemic barriers, stigmas, and lack of access to resources. But for those who are both Black and queer, that risk is even higher.

How can these inequities where Black and LGBTQ+ communities intersect be addressed? How can we better ensure that these individuals are able to seek treatment as early as possible—and that we foster trust between these communities, their employers, and mental health professionals?

Mental health experts Kylie Madhav and Ben Burton helped answer these questions during a recent Spring Health webinar: Mental Health at the Intersection of Black & LGBTQ+ Communities. Kylie Madhav is the clinical support services manager of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center in New York City. Ben Burton is a licensed professional counselor.

Below are some of the crucial topics discussed in the webinar.

Defining intersectionality: Why complex people need complex solutions

Intersectionality means recognizing and accounting for people’s overlapping identities. Each element of a person’s identity affects how they are viewed and their experiences in society. By acknowledging intersectionality, we can better understand the complex prejudices people face, the impact on their mental health, and the ways to address these issues more effectively.

Some of these overlapping factors can include:

  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Disability
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Nationality
  • Socioeconomic Status
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Education
  • Language
  • Immigration Status

However, there may be other areas of intersection in one’s cultural or personal identity. Recognizing these allows us to treat mental health and other needs of complex people.

Adversities faced by the Black queer community that impact mental health

Through the lens of intersectionality, we can more clearly understand the unique adversities Black queer individuals face that can lead to mental health issues. Issues such as higher rates of poverty among LGBTQ+ and African American communities, higher exposure to violence and negative interactions with police, increased risk of homelessness, discrimination, and lack of access to resources all adversely impact mental health.

Stigma plays a major role in the adversities faced by these communities. Stigmas can contribute to intersectional people having less access to resources and less accurate information about mental health needs in general. They may have had adverse experiences with health care providers who aren’t culturally competent and don’t normally service their communities, leading to a lack of trust. Access to more diverse counselors and local pro bono services are a few of the ways to combat these stigmas.

What can we do to advocate for our Black & LGBTQ+ allies?

As coworkers, friends, family members, or other types of allies, we must each put in the work to advocate for Black and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Here are a few things you can do as an ally:

  • Promote the lived experiences of Black queer people—so you are able to amplify their voices and ensure they are better represented within the community.
  • Commit to an ongoing process of evaluating and changing viewpoints—because uncovering biases in your own perspective is an ongoing process.
  • Constantly assess equity within institutional cultures—for instance, in your workplace, what are actions you are taking or could take to ensure Black queer people are being heard?
  • Support organizations that empower resilience—by donating to organizations that offer resources to Black queer people within the community.

What can employers do to empower Black & LGBTQ+ employees?

Recognizing intersectionality allows employers to empower their Black and LGBTQ+ employees and enable better mental health outcomes. It’s crucial for employers to openly discuss mental health in the workplace and encourage workers to seek necessary treatments. However, this should also be backed up by providing employees the right resources.

Employers can begin by offering a health care policy that includes coverage of mental health services. They can also place a focus on prevention tools by learning to spot the signs of stress, anxiety, and depression and treat these issues early. Prevention is less expensive and easier to tackle than unaddressed health issues that get out of hand. Educate employees about their rights. Address discrimination in the workplace, and offer anonymity when appropriate so intersectional employees feel more comfortable seeking help.

For more information, check out Spring Health’s webinar onMental Health at the Intersection of Black & LGBTQ+ Communities

Having the right tools allows workplace leaders to effectively address mental health concerns among all employees. Spring Health offers a comprehensive solution for employees’ mental well-being, with a focus on intersectionality and individual needs. Our proprietary assessment leverages AI to create a personalized care plan for each patient, so they can receive exactly the right treatment as soon as possible. Learn more about Spring Health and request a demo to find out what we can do for your team.

Connor Holmes
Connor Holmes

Connor is a staff writer for Spring Health.

February 10, 2021