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Don’t Let Mental Health Review Be Another Wasted Opportunity

Sandwell African Caribbean Mental Health Foundation were mentioned in an article published by The Voice News Online. To see the original article click here

*Article and image courtesy of The Voice News.

RACIAL EQUALITY groups and mental health specialists have called on the government to address “significant flaws” in the way that black communities receive care.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing plan was published by the government in April following consultation with the Department for Health and Social Care and mental health experts that wrapped up in July this year. 

The plan set out to tackle “unequal outcomes and life chances” of diverse communities in the UK across a 10-year period.

However, a collective of race and mental health organisations have slammed the government for not honing in on the inequalities that plague the mental health pathway for black, Asian and other minorities communities. 

African-Caribbean people are three times more likely to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital for schizophrenia than any other ethnic group, but experience a lack of cultural understanding when reaching out to services for support.

Language barriers were reported as being a major hurdle for ethnic minorities to navigate.

The Race Equality Foundation (REF), a national charity addressing racial inequality in public services, is leading in criticism of the government’s plans.

Their response blasting the government’s call for evidence has been signed by leading mental health organisations including the African-Caribbean Community Initiative and the African & Caribbean Mental Health Services.

Pat Johnson, the CEO of Sandwell African Caribbean Mental Health Foundation, said she welcomed the government’s plan to bring about change.

“The focus on prevention alongside support for people living with mental illness and crisis support are important features of the plan.  The plan in certain chapters mentions groups whose experience and outcomes can be poorer when accessing mainstream services. 

“It is good to see that decades of research that informs of the depth of ethnic disparities in mental health is visible in the plan.  It will be interesting to see how this develops within the final strategy. 

The news comes after the former Health Secretary, Matt Hanock, outlined landmark reforms to the Mental Health Act last year in an effort to stamp out a lack of quality in care which disproportionately impacts those from black and ethnic minoeirty backgrounds. 

In June 2022, the former Health Secretary Sajid Javid introduced the draft Mental Health Bill in parliament and said the Bill would “modernise legislation” and “make sure that it is fit for the future.”

The REC said that there is a “mismatch in terms of demands and needs” for those seeking mental health support due to poor advertising and promotion of services.

They also urged the government to not dismiss the long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw black and Asian people dying at higher rates than their white counterparts, meaning services for coping with bereavement need to be prioritised.

However, the lack of data collection for issues affecting diverse communities has historically been scarce which the REC warns could affect accurate analysis and policy making to benefit people. 

The group has called on the government to directly address structural barriers in mental health services and develop a deeper understanding of how social disparities in housing and employment are also driving factors.

Ms Johnson went on to urge for the government’s plan to result in “equitable change” for ethnic minority people in mental health services.

She added: “We need the report to support increased and better outcomes for groups overrepresented within psychiatry.  The evidence has been out there housed in various reports for decades. 

“We must learn from what we already know aligned to the feedback from the call for evidence.  The government must utilise the feedback from the collaborative input led by the Race Equality Foundation and from other groups from around the country as we do not want this to be another wasted opportunity when we are desperate to see equitable change.”

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