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Employee resources for fighting racism, developing community, and staying mentally well

What can we do?  A question I have been asking myself following the recent tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others in the Black Community.  First, let me express my personal outrage and that I stand in solidarity against injustice, racism, and discrimination.  While I can never put myself in the shoes of the Black community, nor truly understand your anguish, I acknowledge the pain, anxiety, and stress you are feeling, and I stand and support you.    

HR is furthering our commitment to learning and action regarding anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and providing opportunities for university employees.  While there will be several items listed below in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we need to ensure we build opportunities for listening.  My hope is that these resources/activities will provide you with some measurable support.  If you have thoughts/reactions I encourage you to reach out to your Human Resources Consultant as we strive to genuinely and actively offer our support to move the arch of social justice.

Video Message from President Randhawa

We would also like to highlight President Randhawa’s Message of Solidarity and Action in which he identifies some of the specific actions the University plans to take to address racism and inequities on campus.

Employee Personal, Professional and Community Development

In response to the requests for resources we have created the following collections in the Employee Learning Library for exploring how racism impacts our community and what we can do about it. If you have anything you would like to add to these collections or feedback on the content, please let us know at hr.training@wwu.edu.

 

WWU Employee Community Service Day

Human Resources wants to remind employees that if you still have your community service day available, those 8 hours of leave can be used for Social Justice Community Work.  This 8 hours of leave for community service renews every July 1st.

WA State Employee Assistance Program

For our colleagues who are personally impacted by these events and might need additional support, our Washington Employee Assistance Program offers the following resources:

Coping with the Psychological Impact of Racism

People of color experience significant trauma as a result of past and present realities—from surviving a history of slavery, genocide, and interment to the present day realities of disparate health outcomes, facing daily microaggressions, and watching the ongoing horror of the murder of black people caught on video. Racial and ethnic minorities are often more likely to experience psychological distress, but have less access to mental health services than do white people, are less likely to receive needed care, and are more likely to receive poor quality care when they do seek treatment. Added to this, cultural messages often include stigma about getting mental health support with cautions to save face and be tough. 

How Can I Support my Mental Health?

The only thing that will end the pain of racism is the end of white supremacy and dismantling systems of oppression. But in the midst of this trauma, your well being and mental health matter. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Recognize how traumatic it is to hear about or watch the killing of Black people, and give yourself permission not to be okay. Take time and space to feel horror, fear, sadness, grief, rage. 
  • Intentionally seek community. Loneliness can cause physical harm to our bodies. Connect to a statewide Business Resource Group like BUILD (Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity), the Washington Immigrant Network, or the Latino Leadership Network.
  • Make a wellness plan that includes movement, a nourishing diet, and 7-9 hours of sleep. As Black poet and activist Audre Lorde wrote, “I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”
  • Separate what is in your control from what is not. Set boundaries around when and how often you consume media. Choose which friends and coworkers are helpful to engage with right now.
  • Decolonize healing—learn about the history of resilience in your family and community. Explore what culturally-based practices have worked to sustain people for centuries.
When Do I Need Professional Help?

EAP is here to support you with free,confidential counseling. Consider seeking professional help when:

  • A traumatic event or vicarious trauma leads to prolonged symptoms of re-experiencing (flashbacks, nightmares), avoidance (of thoughts, people, situations), negative thoughts and mood (shame, fear), and arousal & reactivity (irritable, reckless, concentration, sleep issues).
  • Anxiety causes you to worry excessively in intensity, frequency, or amount of distress it causes, or when you find it difficult to control the worry (or stop worrying) once it starts.
  • You are feeling little interest or pleasure in doing things you once enjoyed,or you are feeling down, depressed, hopeless, or are having thoughts of suicide.

Resources

Therapy for Black Girls Podcast with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta Free Online Healing & Grieving Group Sessions for Black People by Black healers (in June 2020) Minority Mental Health information from Mental Health America

Encouraging Meaningful Conversations about Race and Trauma from Mindful Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome with Dr. Joy Degruy

Strength Over Silence: Stories of Courage, Culture, and Community Black and Latinx mental health

BUILD (Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity)

The Washington State Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity business resource group exists to improve the experiences of current and future Black state employees, increase the representation of Black people in leadership positions, give voice to the Black perspective in policy discussions about Washington communities, and build each other up as we move forward. B.U.I.L.D. is a formal,enterprise-wide resource group conducting official state business. Participants are not required to take leave to participate. The next general membership meeting is June 18 (calendar appointment with details linked here — download to add to your Outlook calendar).

In closing, even when we are not sure how to proceed, taking action in some form is better than staying quiet and doing nothing. We have plenty of work to do to address the issues behind racism, but working together we can create a stronger inclusive and equitable community.

 

Chyerl Wolfe-Lee 

WWU Assistant Vice President for Human Resources  

 

 

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020 - 1:05pm

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