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Social identities and coping during COVID-19

Professor Stephani Hatch talks about identities, health inequalities, and discrimination in the content of people at increased risk from COVID.

Professor Hatch recaps some of the challenges faced by members of black and ethnic minority communities during COVID-19. The key point is that this pandemic is exacerbating the challenges people already face in society, which must be addressed. This applies more broadly to mental health too.

In terms of how to address the disproportionate impact on certain members of society, we heard about the importance of recognising the problem, checking biases, and addressing discrimination within society.

Recognising the problem

Professor Hatch highlights that even when there is clear evidence of differential treatment and outcomes for some members of society, denial remains. This demonstrates the importance of key voices and leaders in a society or organisation stepping forward to acknowledge these inequalities.

This can be achieved through clear and consistent communication, providing space and opportunity to reflect on this topic, and encouraging more conversations even when this can seem difficult.

Checking biases

As Professor Hatch highlighted, biases can be conscious or unconscious and can impact our behaviour. Think back to Week 1 and Susan’s experience of discrimination – the people purposefully avoiding her were allowing biases to drive their behaviour.

While these biases may be present in our minds for many reasons, the key is to stop these impacting our behaviour. The steps to support this include:

  • Education to understand biases, behaviour, and discrimination.
  • Initiatives to improve people’s attitudes towards social identities and characteristics.
  • Opportunities for discussion and reflection about these issues, in order to build self-awareness.
  • Dialogue to raise awareness at a systemic and societal level.

Addressing discrimination

Finally, when discrimination is seen towards any group in any setting, such as racism, there must be an approach to address this. This will be challenging, but to take the example of a workplace, a comprehensive approach is needed.

This will include a local process or system to identify and report discrimination. Designated responsibility for addressing issues should be transparent and sit with identifiable people. These issues should be taken forward seriously and sensitively to reach an appropriate conclusion.

This approach should be documented and endorsed by senior leadership, as well as being communicated clearly. Role modelling by management is important. The psychological impact on people who experience discrimination can be enormous and support can be provided in many ways.

Of course, addressing discrimination and social inequalities goes beyond the scope of this activity. However, we hope that the information outlined above can be a useful starting point to spark off your own thinking. We are learning more and more each week as the global pandemic progresses about the disproportionate impact on different groups. Please share any thoughts on this important topic in the discussion below.
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COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health

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