There is a mismatch in terms of demands and needs for people from ethnic minorities seeking mental health support, a racial inequality charity has 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.” Jabeer Butt, CEO, Race Equality Foundation
The government should address “significant flaws” in the way black communities receive care, mental health organisations have said.
The Mental Health and Wellbeing plan was published by the government in April following consultation with the Department for Health and Social Care and mental health experts. It aims to tackle “unequal outcomes and life chances” of diverse communities in the UK over a 10-year period. A group of mental health and racial equality organisations have now attacked the government, however, for not focusing on the inequalities in accessing mental health for black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities.
The Race Equality Foundation (REF), a charity that tackles racial inequality in public services, has been one of the main critics of the government plan. The organisation’s response attacking the government has been signed by mental health organisations such as the African-Caribbean Community Initiative and the African & Caribbean Mental Health Services.
The REF said that there is a “mismatch in terms of demands and needs” for those seeking mental health support due to poor advertising and promotion of services. It added that people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities “can find it hard to navigate through the system when they need help” and that “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.”
It also urged the government to not dismiss the long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw black and Asian people dying at higher rates than their white counterparts, meaning services for coping with bereavement need to be prioritised.
Jabeer Butt 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 was “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,” he added.
Pat Johnson, the CEO of Sandwell African Caribbean Mental Health Foundation, said she welcomed the government’s plan to bring about change: “The focus on prevention alongside support for people living with mental illness and crisis support are important features of the plan. The plan in certain chapters mentions groups whose experience and outcomes can be poorer when accessing mainstream services.
“It is good to see that decades of research that informs of the depth of ethnic disparities in mental health is visible in the plan. It will be interesting to see how this develops within the final strategy.”
She added: “We need the report to support increased and better outcomes for groups overrepresented within psychiatry. The evidence has been out there housed in various reports for decades. “
Racial inequality is still a major problem in providing mental health services. The issue of poor data collection is a particularly pressing problem that must be addressed. Such inequalities are longstanding and have been highlighted by inequalities during the Covid-19 pandemic. They also pervade clinical data from research and trials, to care delivery. The Race Equality Foundation is right to call for a greater focus on the needs of ethnic minorities in mental health care, with an understanding of the greater barriers they face, including language difficulties.