The Importance of Black Mental Health

In recent years mental health has risen in importance for people and employers with many steps taken to make mental health seen as just as important as physical health. However, whilst the awareness around mental health has increased there are large disparities in access to mental health services and care particularly faced from those from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Research shows that people from Black communities in the UK are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems, admitted to hospital and experience a poor outcome from treatment. At the same time, Black and minority therapists are underrepresented in mental health and research has shown that if a Black person’s experience does not resonate with a white therapist, it can lead to misdiagnosis*.

Black People are:

  • More likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act
  • Three times more likely to be subject to ‘restrictive interventions’
  • Eight times more likely to be given a community treatment order
  • More likely to access treatment through a police or criminal justice route**

It comes as no surprise therefore that, studies show that experiences of discrimination and racism can contribute to a worsening of an individual’s mental health. The tragic killing of George Floyd during an arrest which sparked large protests across the globe and brought re-focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, was for many Black people a particularly difficult time and mentally very draining. Combined with the fact that Covid-19 appears to disproportionally effect those in the BAME community, has led to many feeling anxious and worried. Alongside the mental effect lockdown has had on people, it is important that access to mental health resources increases, with Mind saying that the UK is ‘experiencing a mental health emergency’.

Direct Line Group provides access to mental health support through a series of initiatives, one being the Mental Health First Aiders program. Currently we have 160 Mental Health First Aiders who have all completed a two-day qualification from Mental Health First Aid England. They act as the first point of contact for staff who have experienced mental issues or distress and will signpost them to the available resources, whether those be internal or external. Before Covid-19 we had at least one mental health first aider per office floor and in several areas of the business we had multiple first aiders. Due to Covid-19 they have adapted and now provide all support online, promoting services through internal channels and sitting in on team meetings.  

As a Group we are proud of what we’ve achieved on mental health within the business, but we also recognise that we need to provide better support to our Black and ethnic minority colleagues. That’s why we are working with our BAME Strand, and our partner Mind, to use the annual DLG Mental Health First Aider conference in December to upskill our first aiders.

We want to provide a supportive environment where anyone and everyone can thrive and feel supported through the tough times and in order to do this we need to be better informed about the challenges our Black colleagues face.

Here are some resources which offer free mental health services:

  • Mind - https://www.mind.org.uk/ A mental health charity in England and Wales, which provides access to support and advice
  • The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network https://www.baatn.org.uk/ An organisation which aims to addresses the inequality of access to psychological services for Black, African, South Asian and Caribbean People. They have a page which lists free mental health services across the UK
  • Black Minds Matter UK https://www.blackmindsmatteruk.com/ A organisation which connects Black  individuals and families with free mental health services by professional Black  therapists, specifically for Black trauma.

*information from the American Psychiatric Association 

**information from mind.org.uk