BAME communities VS Mental Health

Hearts Over Minds Series

Written by Laurrice Osei-Afriyie

To begin with I believe mental health is real and affects everyone in different ways. It is usually, to an extent, perceived as an abstract concept to some because of its complexity. But, mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. It is important to not veer away from it just because of its complicated nature and negative stigmas.

Within many BAME households (specifically those where you are the child of a first-generation immigrant) mental health is majorly taboo. From a young age, it has been engraved into many of us that either we are being dramatic or if we are ‘sad’ then we should just pray about it. This stigma is quite detrimental and deepens mental wounds as the stats are also not in our favour. For example, ‘Black people are 4 more times likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act’ and ‘Suicidal thoughts among BAME youth increased by 27% under covid lockdown’. This demonstrates the damaging impacts stigma against mental health and then against BAME individuals can have. However, making ourselves aware that we don’t have to suffer in silence is the first step. There are professionals out there willing to listen and help us all.

Some do not realise that what they are feeling is down to ill mental health. Even if we do, many of us don’t know how to comfortably speak out about our troubles because we were never shown that they are valid issues. Some people from ethnic minority backgrounds also have their native cultural and religious values to uphold. They may feel shame or embarrassment talking about how they feel, especially with men in these communities. This leads to barriers to accessing mental health treatment. Alongside the conflict and tension cultivated from within communities, there is the issue of representation preventing BAME patients from accessing care. A fifth of nurses and midwives and a third of doctors are from a BAME background. We all deserve the right to ask for a professional that is from a similar background as you. This step can lead to a more positive experience and people who can understand and relate to the tensions within the given communities making it worthwhile.

BAME people are prone only to seek help at the point of crisis. Now more than ever we have to begin to dismantle the power that stigma holds. Stigma can be the reason why someone will not receive the support and treatment necessary for their recovery. If you or a loved one is suffering from mental health problems and struggling, please seek advice from your registered GP or equivalent.

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