Race Equality And Mental Health Charities Sound Alarm On Mental Health Services

Organisations across the racial equality and mental health sectors have collectively told the Government there are “significant flaws” in the current mental health pathway, in the Race Equality Foundation’s response to the Government’s Mental Health and Wellbeing plan and call for evidence.

The response has been signed up to by: Centre for Mental Health, Friends, Families & Travellers, African Caribbean Community Initiative, African & Caribbean Mental Health Services, Asian Resource Centre Croydon, Bristol Somali Resource Centre, Himaya Haven, Jami, PLIAS, Retired Consultant Psychiatrist, Roshni Asian Women’s Resource Centre, Sandwell African Caribbean Mental Health Foundation and Touchstone.

Key points:

  • People from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities can find it hard to navigate through the system when they need help. There was a suggestion in our engagement groups that the workforce and services are not representative. There is a poor cultural understanding of how to engage with service users from certain communities and this can often contribute to existing feelings of isolation. There is a need for the capacities of professionals across the health sector to be further built up to understand health inequalities. 
  • Within mental health services there is a mismatch in terms of demands and needs through a mismatch of advertising/promotion and access to positive mental wellbeing and subsequent treatment that is available. 
  • The state of the UK’s mental health service offer must continue to recognise the significance of Covid-19. The death rates for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities remain markedly higher than their White counterparts.  This raises the issue of dealing with bereavement.
  • It is important to consider promoting wellbeing for people with severe mental illness (SMI). People with SMI experience significant inequalities and are much more likely to die prematurely due to avoidable physical health conditions (OHID, 2022). We heard from African and Caribbean people with SMI that support – such as a ring and ride service and a full explanation of what the appointment will include – would help them attend. Lack of engagement with health services, whether through fears of being sectioned again or a lack of culturally appropriate services, can lead to deterioration in both physical and mental health. 
  • Lack of data collection on ethnicity raises concerns over how this affects analysis and policy on mental wellbeing for Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.

Recommendations:

  • Recognition and direct address of the wider (social) determinants of health
    e.g. deeper understanding and action to address the interlinking connections between factors that impact mental health and mental inequalities
  • Directly addressing structural barriers to engagement with statutory provision
    e.g. increasing the capacities of professionals particularly on cultural understanding; improving access through local promotion using existing community structures, word of mouth and communication through social networks 
  • More effective engagement with the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector
    e.g. funding them as delivery partners; valuing their expertise in areas such as community languages, cultural knowledge and connections with individuals and communities

Jabeer Butt OBE, CEO of the Race Equality Foundation said: 

Our response raises concern about the patchy mental health pathway that many communities are struggling to navigate. It’s clear that on the whole, there needs to be a deeper understanding and action to address the interlinking connections between factors that impact mental health and mental inequalities. This is particularly relevant for individuals from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, whose experience of discrimination and disadvantage in education, employment and housing often compound or contribute to poorer mental health, treatment and recovery. 

We need the Government’s final mental health and wellbeing plan to consider these experiences and plug the gaps in the system that currently exist.

For more information visit www.raceequalityfoundation.org.uk

Written by: Shiryn Sayani

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