The Importance of Black Mental Health
In recent years mental health has risen in importance for people, employers, and the wider society. Many steps have been taken to make mental health 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.
Last year’s focus on the Black Lives Matter Movement, combined with the fact that Covid-19 appears to disproportionately effect those in the BAME community, has had a huge impact on Black people’s mental health. This means that now more than ever, mental health resources and services need to be accessible to as many people as possible. 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 that studies show that experiences of discrimination and racism can contribute to a worsening of an individual’s mental health. Mind, the mental health charity, suggests that racism can contribute to specific mental health problems including depression, anxiety, psychosis, and suicidal disorders. Racial trauma and internalised racism are also some of the outcomes that occur due to racism.
Direct Line Group provides access to mental health support through a series of initiatives, one being the Mental Health First Aiders program. We currently 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. As we move towards a hybrid model of working, our Mental Health First Aiders have adapted and now provide all support online, promoting services through internal channels and sitting in on team meetings.
In addition to Mental Health First Aiders, the BAME strand who are part of our employee network, Diversity Network Alliance (DNA) are also there to provide support, signpost to the different services available as well as just be a listening ear. The Committee is made up of colleagues who understand and appreciate how challenging it is to speak about sensitive topics at work so provide an additional line of support.
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 colleagues. We want to provide a supportive environment where anyone and everyone can thrive and feel supported during tough times. 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 - A mental health charity in England and Wales, which provides access to support and advice
- The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network - 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 - 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