Last year I went to an Afropunk event where they discussed why ethnic minorities are largely underrepresented within the mental health field. Sadly, it’s widely acknowledged that people from ethnic minority communities are less likely to engage with mental health services which can lead to social isolation and mental health deteriorating. Stigma, feelings of guilt and fear of being misunderstood are common and there is an underrepresentation in those that are giving the treatment.
I’m going to apologise in advance…there’s going to be a lot of numbers coming your way but the stats on the access, diagnosis and treatment with BAME communities are mind-blowing and reminds me why I wanted to get into this field:
- An independent review of the Mental Health Act in December 2018 found that there were “profound inequalities” for people from ethnic minority communities accessing mental health treatment, their experience of care and their mental health outcomes. According to statistics from NHS Digital used by the review, in 2017-18 black or black British people were over four times more likely to be detained under the act than white people. The report also found that BAME patients were more likely to be restrained on wards.
- 72% of male and 70% of female sentenced prisoners suffer from two or more mental health disorders, bearing in mind that of all those sentenced to custody in 2006, one in five were from a BAME group.
- People from BAME communities are largely underrepresented in research. Mainstream approaches to counselling and psychotherapy are based on a western, euro-centric view which may not be able to relate to those from different cultures. There’s underrepresentation at board level – Two fifth’s of London’s NHS trust boards have no BAME members.
Despite these stark statistics, there are some things that could be done to improve services to be more culturally-appropriate:
- Mother-tongue counselling – This is already being rolled out in some areas of the UK. In NHS West London, they offer talking therapies in arabic, farsi. Birmingham Health Minds IAPT service offer eight, three hourly, weekly sessions to deliver a group based intervention for South Asian women and is facilitated by 2 Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners who speak Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi or Bengali. Sessions are held in community centres in order to reduce the stigma and peoples’ reluctance to engage with mental health services (Sue & Sue, 2003).
- Community support treatment – This can be done by asking the local population to review their experience and share ideas for improvement which could be fed back to the NHS boards or have culturally appropriate advocates who have an understanding of BAME cultures and communities to help improve engagement.
- Peer-support groups – Having spaces where people with lived experience of mental health issues can help and support each other. This can help people open up and connect with others to make them feel like they are not alone in what they are going through.