Anti-Racism and Mental Health: Exploring the Intersection with Cultural Consciousness

Jarell Bempong
5 min readMar 11, 2023
Photo by Polina Kovaleva

The issue of racism and its impact on mental health is a critical concern that has been long ignored. Racism is a pervasive and insidious system that undermines the mental health of individuals, and research shows that people of color are more likely to experience mental health problems than their white counterparts. In addition, people of colour often face greater barriers to accessing mental health services, leading to poorer outcomes when they do.

The UK is no exception to this issue, as ethnic minorities are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder than their white counterparts, with Black African and Black Caribbean individuals having the highest rates of psychosis. Despite this, ethnic minorities are less likely to access mental health services and often experience poorer outcomes when they do. This systemic issue must be addressed head-on.

The first step in addressing the intersection of racism and mental health is through anti-racism work and promoting cultural consciousness. By promoting a culturally conscious workplace that actively works to dismantle racist structures, individuals can feel more supported and empowered to address their mental health needs. This includes recognizing the impact of historical and structural racism on mental health and prioritizing the experiences and needs of individuals of color.

One way organisations can support anti-racism work is by creating safe spaces for individuals to discuss their experiences of racism, by challenging microaggressions and racist attitudes, and by providing training and education on racism, unconscious bias, and cultural consciousness. Organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion have a positive impact on employees’ mental health and wellbeing. In contrast, workplaces that perpetuate racism and discrimination lead to significant mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and trauma.

It is vital to understand that mental health is not a separate issue but an integral part of overall wellbeing. Mental health affects every aspect of an individual’s life, from their relationships to their work performance. Therefore, promoting cultural consciousness can have a positive impact on individuals in leadership positions. A culturally conscious leader is one who acknowledges and values diversity, listens to their employees, and actively works to create an inclusive work environment. By doing so, they can build stronger teams and create a more positive workplace culture.

However, it is crucial to recognise that dismantling racism is not an easy task. It requires commitment, effort, and a willingness to learn and change. Organizations must invest in education, training, and action to support anti-racism work and promote cultural consciousness. This includes providing resources for employees to learn about their own biases and the impact of racism on mental health. It also involves challenging oppressive systems and policies that perpetuate racism and discrimination.

Research shows that racism can have both direct and indirect effects on mental health. Direct effects refer to the negative impact of racism on an individual’s mental health, such as increased stress, anxiety, and depression. Indirect effects refer to the impact of racism on an individual’s access to resources, such as housing, education, and employment, which can also have negative effects on their mental health.

The impact of racism on mental health is further compounded by the fact that people of color often face greater barriers to accessing mental health services. Stigma and discrimination associated with mental health issues, coupled with structural barriers such as lack of insurance, transportation, and language barriers, can prevent individuals from seeking and receiving the care they need.

In addition to these barriers, the mental health care system itself has been criticized for perpetuating racism and bias. Studies have shown that mental health professionals are more likely to diagnose people of colour with severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, while attributing symptoms of anxiety and depression to personal weaknesses. This bias can result in misdiagnosis, inappropriate treatment, and poorer outcomes for people of colour.

Addressing these disparities requires a multifaceted approach. Anti-racism work and promoting cultural consciousness can play a significant role in dismantling racist structures and creating a more equitable and just society. This includes creating safe spaces for individuals to discuss their experiences of racism, challenging microaggressions and racist attitudes, and providing education and training on racism, unconscious bias, and cultural consciousness.

But the responsibility to address these issues does not solely rest on the individual. It is also the responsibility of organisations and institutions to actively work towards anti-racism and promoting cultural consciousness. This includes promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, providing mental health services that are accessible and culturally sensitive, and addressing the biases and inequities within the mental health care system.

Ultimately, by exploring the intersection of anti-racism work and mental health, we can gain a deeper understanding of the impact of racism on mental health and how promoting cultural consciousness can lead to better outcomes for everyone. Through education, training, and action, we can dismantle racist structures and support the mental health needs of all individuals, regardless of race or ethnicity.

In conclusion, exploring the intersection of anti-racism work and mental health is crucial in creating a more just and equitable society. It requires addressing the systemic and historical roots of racism and promoting cultural consciousness. Organisations must prioritise diversity, inclusion, and mental health as essential components of overall well-being. By doing so, we can create a world where everyone can live and thrive without fear of discrimination or prejudice.


  1. Mental Health Foundation. (2021). Racism and mental health.
  2. Edge, D., Rogers, A., & De Leo, D. (2013). Social identity and mental health: A review of the literature. Journal of Mental Health, 22(3), 256–264.
  3. NHS Digital. (2019). Adult psychiatric morbidity survey: Survey of mental health and wellbeing, England, 2014.
  4. Bhui, K., Stansfeld, S., Hull, S., Priebe, S., & Mole, F. (2003). Ethnic variations in pathways to and use of specialist mental health services in the UK. British Journal of Psychiatry, 182(2), 105–116.
  5. Maynard, M. J., & Harding, S. (2010). Perceived discrimination and psychological well-being among ethnic minority people in England: The role of social identity and social support. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(5), 1–17.
  6. Appelbaum, S. H., Audet, L., & Miller, J. (2003). Cultural competence and the African American experience with health care: The case for specific content in cross-cultural education. Academic Medicine, 78(3), 202–207.




Jarell Bempong

Advocating for AI-enhanced, culturally conscious care to elevate diversity and inclusivity in mental health practices.