Training to Support BIPOC Workers’ Mental Health Needs During COVID-19

Project Intro

Mental health challenges in the United States are an issue that affects many people. The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that approximately 1 out of 5 adults (46 million people) deal with this issue on a daily basis (NIMH: Mental Illness, 2017). With mental health issues being such a widespread phenomenon, the importance of having multiple channels for providing support is crucial. Because nearly 63% of American adults work (Mental Health in the Workplace, 2019), the workplace is one of the most important avenues for promoting mental healthcare and support.

This becomes even more relevant of a topic in the current context of COVID-19. According to a report by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the “rates of anxiety and depression symptoms have tripled since 2019” (Workplace Mental Health COVID-19, n.d.). From the same report, Black people in the United States went from screening positive for anxiety and depression in the first half of 2019 at a rate of 8% to 34% in the summer of 2020; the highest rate of any racial group. The Latinx population showed a similar increase in rates of screening positive for anxiety and depression. This data demonstrates that BIPOC populations are shouldering a disproportionate burden regarding mental health challenges and that organizations should be prepared to support them in the workplace.

While employee mental health was a significant concern prior to the current crisis, the pandemic creates a situation that needs to be addressed in the workplace by employers. This proposal is to conduct research regarding the needs of BIPOC workers in organizations and how their specific mental health needs can be met; especially considering the enduring crisis of COVID-19 and its effect on their communities. The research team used data from a survey on workplace mental health to assess how BIPOC communities perceive the support they receive from their organizations regarding their mental health as well as what their organizations can do to better support them. The research team analyzed the findings of the survey and created a training on recommendations for strategies that organizations can employ to support the mental health of their BIPOC workers.

The research team conducted a series of 4 training to disseminate the recommendations. The organizations that received training included a private practice provider group, Vanderbilt Hospital’s Social Work department, the Social Work department for Nashville City Schools, and a conference presentation at the Network for Social Work Management’s Future of Work Summit. In addition to the training, the participants were provided with continuing education credits and with a book focused on self-care for BIPOC populations. The trainings were well-received and requests for additional resources and information have bene received by the research team.


Mental Health in the Workplace. (2019, April 26).

NIMH: Mental Illness. (2017). [Government]. National Institute of Mental Health.

Workplace Mental Health—Employee Mental Health & Well-being During & Beyond COVID-19. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2021, from

Team Members

David Bolt

David Bolt, DSW, LCSW is a consultant for people development and culture issues for organizations as well as being an adjunct faculty member at the CSSW. Dr. Bolt’s research interest is in workplace mental health programs.

Carmen Reese-Foster

Carmen Reese-Foster, DSW, LMSW is an Assistant Professor of Practice, Online MSSW Program Director (Interim), and Director of Alumni Affairs at UT College of Social Work. Dr. Reese-Foster’s research focus is about the impact of COVID-19 and race-based trauma on the mental health of Black social workers.