Black History Month: The Stigma of Mental Health in Black Communities
Research shows there is a clear disparity between the black community and the rest of the UK population. There is no biological evidence that black people are more or less prone to certain mental health problems than other people.
However, healthcare professionals are:
- Over four times more likely to section black people than white people. Being sectioned under the Mental Health Act means that you can be kept in hospital against your will.
- Three times more likely to restrain black people, or hold them in isolation while in hospital.
- Over ten times more likely to subject black people to a Community Treatment Order (CTO). Under a CTO you must follow some rules after leaving hospital, or you will have to go back in.
Statistics from Mind show that people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups living in the UK are more likely to:
- be diagnosed with mental health problems
- be diagnosed and admitted to hospital
- experience a poor outcome from treatment
- disengage from mainstream mental health services, leading to social exclusion and a deterioration in their mental health.
Under the outdated Mental Health Act, black people are more likely to be compulsorily admitted for treatment, more likely to be on a medium or high secure ward and more likely to be subject to seclusion or restrain.
There are multiple reasons for these statistics including stigma, cultural barriers, and systemic discrimination, all of which are more directly experienced by black boys and young black men as they get older. Racism is also a factor, there is a racist stereotype of black men as being dangerous, or ‘needing to be controlled’. This may bias the decisions professionals make about their black patients.
Within the black community there is often a stigma attached to mental health prevents individuals from accessing services, when they do eventually access services they are met with services that are not suited to their needs.
The Race Disparity Audit published in late 2017 showed that black adults were the least likely to report being in receipt of counselling, therapy medication. Common mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression were most prevalent amongst black women, black men on the other hand are 10 times more likely to have experienced a psychotic disorder within the last year compared to the white male population and the most likely to have been detained under the Mental Health Act.
Real Life Experience
Angela told Mind about her experiences of mental health care and how this has affected her partner who is also her Carer. She said, her “partner convinced the mental health services not to escalate my treatment to a hospital stay, which would have been very difficult for him coping with a baby, an ill partner and a full-time job. Although I was grateful to not be in hospital, those days were especially hard.
What made it even harder was that the mental health professionals would double check everything I said with my white male partner. And they would ask him if I had shown aggressive behaviour, despite never having a history of violence relating to manic episodes.
I also felt that the possibility of hospitalisation was suggested more often than it would have been if I was white. It was used as a warning against not taking the very high doses of medication I was on.”
What support is available?
This factsheet gives information on options for support and treatment to help resolve specific issues. For local support, one of Birmingham Carers Hub’s partners, Birmingham Mind, offers help to those who experience mental health difficulties but also support to their Carers.
Birmingham Mind’s Community Development Team knows that many BAME groups and individuals feel excluded and not given sufficient information in appropriate languages about mental health. The charity, who employs staff from a BEM group (41%), works hard to turn this around by working with partner such as Common Unity and Nehemica – UCHA.
Uroy Kelly leads the African Caribbean Communities project which provides a meeting place for community members, to identify common issues concerning their community, in order to maintain cultural activities and promote understanding and equality.
The Birmingham Mind Helpline provides advice and information to people experiencing mental health difficulties including their families. The service is open 24hrs a day, everyday, call 0121 262 3555 or 0800 915 9292. Copies of the Helpline Leaflet is available to download in a range of languages including Somali and Arabic. You may find reading the Keeping Well Booklet useful which is also available in Arabic.