Joint statement by Chair of Trustees and CEO – The Mental Health Foundation’s commitments on race and diversity

7th Apr 2021
Challenging mental health inequalities
Mental health in the workplace
Aisha Sheikh-Anene headshot

Aisha Sheikh-Anene

Chair of the Board of Trustees

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This content discusses discrimination or discriminatory violence (such as homophobia, racism, sexism and ableism), which some people may find triggering.

Following the murder of George Floyd, people all around the world recognised afresh that fundamental change was still needed across society if we are to realise a future that was more equal and equitable.

That is why it was so disappointing that the Sewell Report into race in Britain last month cast doubt on the extent of racism, rather than taking the opportunity to affirm the need for bolder action, not least because of the huge toll racism takes on people’s mental health.

This blog is our story of how we, like many organisations, met to discuss, learn, share and take a long, hard look at our responsibility to address racism. We wanted to look at how we change the way that we make decisions, shape priorities and share opportunities in recognition that discrimination damages our mental health and addressing inequalities is central to realising our vision and mission.

Our journey on race and diversity

At board level, since 2018, we have taken proactive steps to ensure we have a diverse board of trustees with a range of skills and lived experiences, which has proved invaluable. However, while we have a diversity of staff across the UK, we have an almost all-white leadership team. Prior to the murder of George Floyd, we had not openly discussed this or developed a plan of how we could prevent racial disadvantage in wider society being perpetuated in our decisions and culture.

Turning towards action

Following an independent six-month review with workshops and staff consultation, we worked together to shape the actions we were going to take. Last week, our board agreed to over 70 detailed recommendations across the organisation for action.

We were clear that if an issue isn’t named and seen, it isn’t a priority for action. So, we want to keep normalising the conversation about race, discrimination and inclusion. That is a process that has just started and we recognise that positive intent is not a precursor to success; as such, this needs to be nurtured, protected and monitored.

Six big commitments

There are six big commitments we are making as an organisation:

  • The Chair and CEO will be accountable for driving progress on our approach to race and diversity and will be held to account by the board
  • Public targets and regular reporting on diversity. These will include having 20% of our board and 20% of our leadership team from diverse racial backgrounds by 2024 with further diversity targets to be developed
  • Whole organisation commitments (our leadership, programmes, research, policy, fundraising, communications) to address racial inequality and making it a thread that runs through our work and identity
  • The creation of at least four annual paid internships and bursaries for professional development and training for colleagues from racialised and minority communities
  • Investing in a senior post to lead the development and implementation of a Diversity and Inclusion strategy
  • Explicitly adopting a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination within a committed learning culture to keep talking about racism and other forms of discrimination

Walking our own talk

As Chair and CEO, we are also joining with other leaders in the sector to take the following steps specifically in relation to speaking at panels and events or participating in committees, boards and working groups to create space for diverse voices to be heard and influence change.

We are committing to:

  • Be part of groups and committees that are actively inclusive, and ask ourselves the question: who isn’t at the table, who should be and how can we get them there?
  • Be part of panels where at least 50% of the panel is female and 20% from diverse racial backgrounds
  • Take part in conferences where speakers and representatives with diverse backgrounds of all kinds and lived experiences are heard across all parts of the conference, including the main stage
  • Always be asking ourselves, our teams and other organisers, if we are ensuring a wide range of voices and lived experiences, are heard in our own events and those we participate in

We want to say again that we need to keep learning. Our commitments will not end systemic racism but, as a result of these commitments, we envisage an organisation that is more reflective, more representative and more relevant.

Every step on that journey will equip us to better deliver our vision of good mental health for all.

If you feel affected by the content you have read, please see our get help page for support.

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A-Z Topic: Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities

In England and Wales, nearly one in five of us come from a BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) background. Challenges such as racism, stigma and inequalities can affect the mental health of people from BAME communities.

Find out more

Learn more about the Mental Health Foundation

Our vision is for a world with good mental health for all. We work to prevent mental health problems. Helping people understand, protect and sustain their mental health. We will drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to live mentally healthier lives, with a particular focus on those at greatest risk.

Read more about us

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