A devoted public servant, Dr. Mendonsa has had a prolific career treating patients in state hospitals, prisons, and jails. This government work has exposed him to the social inequities that are prevalent in the American healthcare system, reflecting what psychiatry research reveals about unconscious bias in healthcare service providers, including mental health professionals. He sees first-hand how race, economic status, and where a person lives are determining factors when it comes to access to quality health care. There is a general mistrust of providers and healthcare facilities that is influenced by bias and deep-rooted systemic racism. These inequalities determine patient outcomes as we have seen during the coronavirus pandemic with minority groups hospitalized and dying at disproportionate rates.
As a result of inequities in psychiatric care, ethnic, racial, and sexual minorities often suffer from worse mental health outcomes. There are a variety of factors that contribute to the disparities. These include lack of high-quality mental health care services in poorer communities, cultural stigma surrounding psychiatric care, discrimination, and a general unawareness of mental health and how to find resources. When patients do seek care, they may feel resistance and thus not complete the necessary steps required to help them overcome their mental health conditions. They often do not follow through for subsequent care and appointments.
Unconscious bias toward population groups are automatically activated during practitioner-client encounters. These “automatic thoughts” can cause a provider to not put their best clinical foot forward. Patients receiving sub-par car typically don’t heal and recover completely. Sometimes, conditions lag on as improvements are stalled because either the patient or provider have unconscious “stuff” clouding the pathway forward across the finish line.
Training, acknowledgement that unconscious bias exists and a willingness to learn and grow must be pillars in any organization’s culture. It is simply not enough to tell staff to “just be aware of it.” Instead, hands on training programs that pair workers from different backgrounds, genders, cultures, etc. is a must. Organizations and their employees need encouragement to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Additionally, programs that build on concepts and remind staff in morning huddles, internal communications, and events allow for change to gain deeper traction. Facilitating ways for staff to share their reactions, backgrounds, and fears when meeting with supervisors can also be valuable.
Dr. Mendonsa’s Interventions and Approaches for Organizations
Dr. Mendonsa encourages organizations to be transparent about their desire to overcome bias and grow from it. Bringing it out of the shadows can be so powerful and ignite synergy from employees, stakeholders and investors. Utilizing a top-down/bottom-up approach can also show commitment. Employees and providers at all levels should be involved in creating the program and interventions. Ensuring diverse workgroups is just scratching the surface. Diversity with adequate budgets, freedom to change, and C-suite support will produce enduring outcomes.
Contact Dr. Mendonsa to learn more about how he can help your organization create meaningful programs to successfully address organizational diversity and social inequity.
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