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Mental Health in BAME Households: The Struggle

Do people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds struggle more with mental health than others?

Mental health has to do with the emotional, psychological and social well being of an individual. The effects it can have on different parts of people's lives are so broad, varying from how they interact with others to what they think and feel in relation to different situations. Poor mental health also has the ability to affect the physical wellbeing of individuals, as it negatively affects health and lifestyle choices, and the ability to handle stress.

Statistics show that people from Black, Asian and minority ethic backgrounds experience different rates of mental health and wellbeing than the white population. The UK's Office for Health Improvement and Disparities reported that during the recent pandemic, people from BAME groups tended to report worse mental health and wellbeing than white people, and decreased levels of anxiety and depression but greater levels of stress. According to Mind, common mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders or depression are more likely to be experienced by black women (29%) when compared to white British women (21%) and non-British white women (16%), black men are more likely to experience psychosis and under the Mental Health Act, black men are 4 times more likely to be detained.

What makes these statistics even more worrying is that more white people receive treatment for mental health problems and have better outcomes than those from BAME groups. These inequalities in the attention provided to those struggling with mental health in the BAME and white population no doubt have a knock-on effect, making these differences more apparent. A greater likelihood of developing depression, and even post traumatic stress where violence is involved, has been linked to experiences of racism. Most people from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background that you may meet on a random day will probably be able to relate to feelings of anxiety or depression caused by experiences of racial discrimination anywhere from school to the workplace.

The stigma surrounding mental health concerns in the BAME community

Mental health is not a topic which is easily discussed in the homes of many people from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds. In fact, it is often ignored, misunderstood or underestimated which means that mental health issues will often go untreated and may even increase in severity as a result. More commonly it is when the effects are so bad that they can no longer be ignored that help is sought after. The distrust of mental health services due to the belief that they follow the pattern of racially motivated discrimination experienced by minorities in wider society, and the failure of these services to meet the cultural needs of the BAME community are some of the reasons why the topic of mental health remains a taboo topic to many.

Negative stereotypes surrounding mental health concerns and the lack of information regarding these concerns make it more difficult for struggling individuals to find and receive the help they need. Though, improvements in the attitude towards the topic of mental health in this community can be made with improvements in cultural awareness generally, and specifically in the healthcare and mental health workforce. Thomas A. Vance says,

Research has found that the lack of cultural responsiveness from the therapist, cultural mistrust, and potential negative views from the therapist associated with stigma impact the provision of mental health services in the Black community.

The increased awareness of mental health issues and dialogue relating to it provides hope, however, that more funding will be targeted towards making these improvements.

The younger generation & reducing the mental health stigma in the BAME community

The attitude towards mental health is already changing within the younger generation. People are frequently having more open conversations about mental health issues and more youths are acknowledging that there is no shame in experiencing mental health struggles. Though, the existing stigma around mental health poses a threat to adolescents as negative beliefs and stereotypes are often used to justify bullying or discrimination due to mental health issues. The belief is that with more education on mental health and more people sharing their experiences, the stigma surrounding mental health issues will significantly reduce. McLean on changing attitudes towards mental health in the BAME community:

We live in a diverse world, and each day we interact with people of a variety of backgrounds. The more we understand differences that make us distinct, the more we’ll understand there is no shame in having a mental illness—regardless of our culture and background.


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