Wednesday, Aug 18, 2021 | 12:00 AM ET

Belonging Is the Missing Piece in DEI and Mental Health Strategies

A new playbook from Modern Health is your guide to implementing integrative, evidence-based strategies that promote employee belonging within organizations. Dr. Jessica Jackson, Global DEIB Care Lead, and Dr. Myra Altman, VP of Clinical Care at Modern Health, discuss the connection to mental health and how moving beyond Tolerant and Inclusive to Integrative will drive greater engagement and clinical outcomes. 

Video transcript:

Dr. Myra Altman: Can you talk to us a little bit about why you think that B is so important in the DEIB context?

Dr. Jessica Jackson: Absolutely. So one of the biggest things I think is that B is the belonging and many people have not yet thought about that which is interesting to me because belonging is Psychology 101. It's in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. We all want to belong. That is why we join the PTA, it is why people join sports teams, even why people might join a gang or girl scouts, anything, we all want to feel like we belong to something, and so one of the things is when we think about how that influences mental health, belonging is also easier to measure. It's hard to measure what does equity look like because that's going to differ around marginalized communities, but it's easy to then measure do you feel like you're a part of this team, do you belong? And so it makes it measurable and so when you think about for at Modern Health, we think about it like an equation. So if we have diverse offerings plus equitable services and inclusive products, then that leads to the B, belonging. So D plus E plus I equals B, so if we're doing the DEI well, people will feel the B and so we've added the B to make it all as one because you cannot leave out the B. We want people to recognize that you feel better, you feel more engaged, your mental well-being is improved when you feel like you are valued for all of who you are holistically when you show up to work and so I think that for many companies, many employers, when you're thinking about well how do we check if our DEI initiatives are working, adding the B is a measurable evidence-based way to make sure that what you are doing is working and helping your employees to feel like they're included. I think one of the biggest things is a word that we've heard a lot of this year: psychological safety, right? When I feel like I belong and thinking about the just taking out kind of scientific psychological like language just as innate sense of belonging we all know what that feels like. We know what it feels like when you're in a setting and you feel like you're on the periphery. I don't fit here right so we also know what it feels like when you come to work or you come to a group of friends or any environment you're like these are my people like this feels good to be here, right? And so when employers are thinking why this is important, when you feel that, you are more likely to seek help, so when I feel psychologically safe not only am I more likely to offer ideas and engage in meetings, but most importantly I'm probably going to be more likely to take advantage of the mental health services because I feel safe to say, hey I'm feeling more stressed out than usual or I'm feeling depressed or you know what, there's been a lot of grief this year and I'm really feeling the effect of it and I feel like I can talk to my colleagues or I can talk to my manager about it because I feel safe because I feel like this feels like home, right? And I like to think about belonging in that snack way that it feels like home when we belong, we feel like we're at home and home doesn't have to be a specific place but it's a feeling the same way that when you've lived multiple places, when you go back there it feels good to you. You feel safe. I know where to go, I know who to talk to. That's kind of the feeling of psychological safety is, I feel at home and that's where the belonging can be important. If you want your employees to be able to feel comfortable asking for help or if you want them to feel comfortable advocating and speaking out and even highlighting, right, offering feedback that may not always be positive something we all need we have to create that sense of psychological safety and belonging can help do that. 

Dr. Myra Altman: What are some other things that Modern Health is focused on to really center the B in the DEIB? What are some things you think employers should ask for when they're evaluating a mental health solution?

Dr. Jessica Jackson: Absolutely. One of the things is we just released a white paper that talks about cultural humility. Pushing this forward, we want to make sure that providers, all providers can meet the mental health needs of the community globally right? And so I think our white paper is a great introduction to how does culture humility how can that help me how can that help my company. And in that we talk about culturally centered care and really thinking about how do I center the culture of not only my employees but our organization. Organizational culture plays a very real part in how people feel comfortable and help seeking and different things like that. In addition, we want to think about how do you vet your vendors or mental health providers, your EAP for example, for their vision for an integrative approach to DEIB right, or how do we think about what are their offerings even more concretely. For example Modern Health, we offer circles and again it's based on data we thought about for July was just Bypass Mental Health Awareness month, and so we took a look what are the circles which are psycho educational groups that we offer that help people to feel belonging as a part of a community. We looked at what are the topics that our members of color were going to most often and then we said okay let's create special circles just for them because we know that this is a need and that is something that companies can do. Look at the data. What are the resources that your members of color are using a lot more, your employees of color are using a lot more, and then how can you create niche things that highlight the intersectionality to support them in that and so that is something that Modern Health does a great job at is not only providing guidelines for that like our Modern playbook but also offering real concrete solutions such as our circles that already provide that for you right that we already are saying. Let's look at the data and help support the employees, the members that you have at your organization.

Dr. Myra Altman: Yeah that really reminds me I know both of us worked closely with Dr. Taisha Caldwell-Harvey of the Black Girl Doctor and one of the things that she said to me a long time ago is if you're not building with these diverse communities in mind, you are unintentionally going to build for the majority and you're going to build discrimination into your products, and I think that has really always just stuck with me of like how do you always take that step, say is this going to serve each population or what what might different populations need that's a little bit different than maybe we've thought about and asking that question. Jessica, Dr. Jackson, it's been such a pleasure talking to you. If there was one thing you wanted to leave the audience with when it comes to these really important topics of diversity inclusion and belonging, importantly mental health, what would be that one thing you'd want folks to take away?

Dr. Jessica Jackson: I would want them to take away that one size does not fit all. You need nuanced options because as humans we are nuanced with our different social identities and so you need something that allows people to also have autonomy. I get to choose if I want a provider who looks like me or does not look like me. I get to choose which social identity is most salient to me today. Is it being black, is it being a woman and what offerings do you have to meet either of those needs, and so that's what I would leave people with is like you want to help your employees to feel like they belong then don't offer static offerings. You want fluid offerings that can meet them at whatever their need may be at that time. And so I encourage people to check out our latest Modern playbook to really learn about how to do that and how to think about how your options can be more nuanced to meet all of your employees’ social identities and help them to feel validated and help them to feel like they are included and that they belong that your workplace is their home.



Dr. Jessica JacksonGlobal Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Care Lead, Modern Health

Dr. Myra AltmanVP of Clinical Care, Modern Health

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