Unconscious Bias and Mental Health: Developing Cultural Consciousness for Inclusivity

Jarell Bempong
5 min readMar 12, 2023
Photo by cottonbro studio

As someone who has experienced the impact of unconscious bias on mental health firsthand, I am passionate about raising awareness and developing cultural consciousness to promote inclusivity in all aspects of life. In the UK, unconscious bias is a pervasive issue that affects mental health outcomes for individuals from diverse backgrounds. It is essential to address this issue to ensure that everyone has access to high-quality mental health care and support.

Unconscious bias refers to the attitudes and stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions towards others without us even realizing it. In the context of mental health, unconscious bias can lead to misdiagnosis, stigma, and inadequate treatment for individuals with mental health conditions.

For example, studies have shown that mental health professionals in the UK are more likely to diagnose Black individuals with more severe mental health conditions than white individuals with the same symptoms, leading to overdiagnosis and overmedication. Similarly, women are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, while men are more likely to be diagnosed with substance abuse disorders or conduct disorders.

These biases can have significant consequences for individuals seeking mental health treatment. They can result in inadequate treatment or even misdiagnosis, which can have severe consequences for individuals’ mental health and well-being. In some cases, it can even lead to medical malpractice.

Furthermore, unconscious bias can also lead to stigma surrounding mental health conditions, preventing individuals from seeking the treatment they need. For example, individuals from certain cultural backgrounds may be less likely to seek mental health treatment due to cultural beliefs and stigma surrounding mental health. This can result in delayed treatment and worsened symptoms.

To address unconscious bias in mental health, it is crucial to develop cultural consciousness and promote inclusivity. This includes educating mental health professionals on cultural competence and providing resources to promote inclusivity and understanding of diverse cultures.

One example of promoting inclusivity is by diversifying mental health professionals. Studies have shown that individuals from diverse backgrounds are more likely to seek mental health treatment when they are treated by mental health professionals from similar backgrounds. This highlights the importance of having a diverse workforce in mental health care to promote inclusivity and understanding.

Another approach is to provide education and resources to mental health professionals to improve their cultural competence. This can include training on cultural sensitivity and awareness of diverse cultural backgrounds. By increasing understanding and awareness, mental health professionals can better serve individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds and provide more effective treatment.

In addition to mental health professionals, it is essential to promote cultural consciousness in the workplace and wider society. This can include providing resources and education to promote awareness and understanding of diverse cultures, including mental health conditions and treatment.

In the workplace, this can include implementing policies and practices that promote inclusivity and diversity, such as training programs and employee resource groups. By promoting inclusivity and diversity, businesses can create a more positive and supportive environment for employees, reducing stigma and promoting better mental health outcomes.

In the UK, there is a growing movement to address unconscious bias in mental health. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has launched a campaign to promote equality and diversity in mental health care. The campaign aims to raise awareness of unconscious bias and promote cultural competence among mental health professionals.

The NHS has also recognized the importance of addressing unconscious bias in mental health. The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) aims to improve the experiences of black and minority ethnic (BME) staff in the NHS. The standard includes measures to address unconscious bias and promote inclusivity in the workplace.

There are also numerous charities and organizations in the UK that are working to promote inclusivity and address unconscious bias in mental health. These organizations provide resources, education, and support for individuals seeking mental health treatment, as well as mental health professionals.

For example, minimizing unconscious bias in the recruitment process can lead to more diverse and inclusive workplaces. This can result in a more positive and supportive environment for employees, reducing stigma and promoting better mental health outcomes. In addition, promoting cultural consciousness and inclusivity in the workplace can lead to increased productivity and creativity, as individuals from diverse backgrounds bring unique perspectives and experiences to the table.

It is also important to acknowledge the role that individuals play in promoting inclusivity and addressing unconscious bias. By actively seeking out diverse perspectives and challenging our own biases, we can create a more compassionate and understanding society. This can involve educating ourselves on different cultures and experiences, engaging with individuals from diverse backgrounds, and actively speaking out against discrimination and bias.

In the context of mental health, it is important to recognize that stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health conditions can be a significant barrier to seeking treatment. By promoting inclusivity and understanding of mental health conditions, we can create a more supportive environment for individuals to seek the help they need. This can involve education and awareness campaigns, promoting access to mental health resources, and fostering a culture of openness and understanding.

Ultimately, developing cultural consciousness for inclusivity is not just about addressing unconscious bias and promoting mental health outcomes. It is about creating a society that values the unique experiences and perspectives of all individuals, and works to promote equity and social justice. By actively working towards inclusivity and cultural consciousness, we can create a brighter and more compassionate future for all.

In conclusion, addressing unconscious bias in mental health is crucial for promoting better mental health outcomes and creating a more inclusive and supportive society. By developing cultural consciousness and promoting inclusivity, we can minimise the impact of unconscious bias on mental health and create a more positive environment for individuals from diverse backgrounds. This requires a multifaceted approach that involves ongoing education, awareness, and action at the individual and organisational level. By taking action and promoting inclusivity and understanding, we can create a society that values the unique experiences and perspectives of all individuals and works towards equity and social justice.



Jarell Bempong

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