People from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities trying to access support and treatment for mental ill health often find it hard to navigate their way through a “patchy” healthcare system, a charity has said.
The Race Equality Foundation (REF) has warned that there are “significant flaws” in the current mental health pathway, including poor cultural understanding of how to engage with patients from certain communities, which can in turn exacerbate existing feelings of isolation.
The REF, in its response to the government’s latest mental health and wellbeing plan and call for evidence, also said there is a need for better training and understanding across the health sector to understand health inequalities.
Within mental health services there can be mismatches in terms of demands and needs, advertising and promotion, access to positive mental wellbeing, and access to the subsequent treatments available, it has argued.
UK mental health services also need to do more to recognise the significance of Covid-19, including the fact death rates for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities remain markedly higher than their White counterparts. This, in turn, raises the issue of dealing with bereavement and the impact this can have on mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
The NHS needed to be doing more to consider promoting wellbeing for people with severe mental illness (SMI), the foundation has also argued.
Supporting mental health
People with SMI experience significant inequalities and are much more likely to die prematurely because of avoidable physical health conditions, it has said.
“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,” the foundation said.
The foundation is also critical of the lack of data collection on ethnicity and the lack of understanding around the wider (social) determinants of health. It has called for deeper understanding and action to address the interlinking connections between factors that affect mental health and mental inequalities.
Foundation CEO Jabeer Butt 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,” Butt added.