I have listed resources and useful links to places where you can undertake your own research and support services for BAME communities. Whilst I have included bullet pointed statistics, I urge you to see the numbers as the people that they refer too.
In this blog post I focus on race identity as the leading topic, however, this month also covers awareness for mental health in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Firstly, a thank you to @psychamorefindings for coming up on my Instagram feed and making me aware of this Awareness Month. Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CCI785fDpfD/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
Mental ill health can affect anyone. Regardless of race, gender or identity. However, access to treatment at the current time, can be dependable on a person’s background and identity.
Since 2008, July has been named as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States.
“In May of 2008, the US House of Representatives announce July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.” - National Alliance on Mental Illness
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health also plays a part in this event. According to the OMH website during this month they will be continuing to highlight 'its free and accredited e-learning program : Improving Cultural Competency for Behavioral Health Professionals. This program is part of OMH’s Think Cultural Health E-learning courses, which are developed to help health professionals develop the knowledge and skills to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate services.'
The event comes with two goals in mind:
Improve access to mental health treatment and services and promote public awareness of mental illness. (Source: NAMI)
Name a month as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to enhance public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities. (Source: NAMI)
Why is it named after Bebe Moore Campbell?
"Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can't we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans...It's not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible." - Bebe Moore Campbell, 2005
Campbell was the co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles and national spokesperson, as well as a leading African-American author and advocate. In 2005, her long-time friend Linda Wharton-Boyd suggested dedicating a month to her advocacy work to provide mental health education and remove the stigma
In 2006, Campbell passed away after her battle with cancer. The group made up of Wharton-Boyd, her friends, family and allied advocates continued their efforts.
After gaining the support from Representatives Albert Wynn [D-MD] and Diane Watson [D-CA] an official Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was created after the two co-signed the legislation.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
The NAMI has an ongoing docuseries that highlights perspective on mental health access across backgrounds and communities. You can find the series here: Strength Over Silence.
NAMI also had the You Are Not Alone campaign that 'features the lived experience of people affected by mental illness to fight stigma, inspire others, and educate the broader public. […] NAMI supports all diverse backgrounds, cultures and perspectives, reminding everyone that you are not alone'
They also have the ok2talk story-sharing platform. The platform is there to help reduce the feelings of isolation people may feel when dealing with mental ill health.
Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic Communities and Mental Health
“The acronym BAME stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and is defined as all ethnic groups except White ethnic groups. It does not relate to country origin or affiliation.” Answer by the Mayor of London to the question: ‘What is your definition of BAME?’ [Source: https://www.london.gov.uk/questions/2018/0064]
The NAMI lists the following as examples that minority communities have to contend with when trying to access mental health care:
A culturally insensitive system
Racism, bias and discrimination in treatment settings
Lower quality care
Lower chance of health care coverage
Stigma from several angles (for being a minority and for having mental illness)
There is the perception that mental health treatment is a luxury and something that can solve itself. Debunking this stigma is another vital part to serving these communities.
NAMI also made note about the importance of a 'culturally competent provider' that will 'integrate your beliefs and values into treatment'. They stress that cultural competency is very beneficial to effective treatment.
UK Mental Health
Whilst this is a U.S. National Awareness Month and primarily focuses upon America’s mental health system, this message is very relevant to the UK. I urge you to read and digest these statistics from the Mental Health Foundation in full. References to these statistics and more information can be found here.
Black / African / Caribbean / Black British people
The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) found that Black men were more likely than their White counterparts to experience a psychotic disorder in the last year.
Risk of psychosis in Black Caribbean groups is estimated to be nearly seven times higher than in the White population.
The impact of the higher rates of mental illness is that people from these groups are more likely than average to encounter mental health services.
Detention rates under the Mental Health Act during 2017/18 were four times higher for people in the ‘Black’ or ‘Black British’ group than those in the ‘White’ group.
The Count Me in Census, which collects information on inpatient care, found higher than average admission and detention rates for Black groups in every year since 2006 to 2010.
Black men were reported to have the highest rates of drug use and drug dependency than other groups.
Whilst the White Caucasian population experienced the highest rates for suicidal thoughts, suicide rates are higher among young men of Black African, Black Caribbean origin, and among middle aged Black African, Black Caribbean and South Asian women than among their White British counterparts.
'This term refers to people in the UK from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese and any other Asian backgrounds’
The latest APMS found no meaningful differences between Asian people and their White British counterparts in terms of experiencing psychotic disorders or common mental health problems.
People of Indian and Pakistani origin showed higher levels of mental wellbeing than other ethnic groups as did those of African-Caribbean origin.
Suicidal thoughts were less common in Asian people than White British people, as was the likelihood of self-harming behaviour.
Those identifying as Asian or Asian British are one-third less likely to be in contact with mental health or learning disability services.
Within the South Asian community in England and Wales, research has indicated that older South Asian women seem to be an at-risk group for suicide.
One 2018 review found that non-European immigrant women, including young South Asian women, were a high-risk group for suicide attempts.
Findings from the last Count Me In census found that the number of people in the Asian or Asian British groups who spent time compulsorily detained in hospital rose by approximately 9% from 2005 to 2010.
There are some studies that suggest prevalence of mental ill-health (both common mental health problems and psychotic illness) is lower among Chinese people than their White British counterparts.
Chinese people are underrepresented in mental health services, rates of admission to mental health inpatient facilities in England and Wales were lower among the Chinese population compared to the national average. Further research is required to explore whether this is because the community experiences better mental health than the general population or if they experience specific barriers to accessing mental health services.
It is important to note that these findings may not be reflective of true prevalence of mental health problems among Asian communities in the UK as the reasons explored above may mean that people in these communities are less likely to report that they are experiencing mental health problems.
Other ethnic groups
Irish people living in the UK have much higher hospital admission rates for mental health problems than other ethnic groups. They have higher rates of depression and alcohol problems and are at greater risk of suicide.
I originally wrote this blog post as I saw only one post that was circulating for this entire month. In comparison to the awareness month put on by the Mental Health Foundation, it felt like everyone and anyone had jumped on the trend in May but had closed their eyes in July. My past advocacy before I began to properly educate myself was limited to the white female experience. I naively took my experience as universal. This way of thinking is not a help, but a hindrance in the mission to fully eradicate the mental ill health stigma from our societies. If you are advocating for removing the stigma surrounding mental ill health, you cannot ignore other communities just because you are not a part of them. Just like feminism requires intersectionality, Mental Health advocacy and activism requires it as a necessity too.
Below are useful links and further resources. Black Lives Matter UK is a brilliant organisation to look into and support.
Mental Health Foundation – there is a lot of research articles on here as well as useful information and resources. They have ongoing research into the effects of the pandemic and financial inequality in relation to mental health.
Black Minds Matter UK - 'Our mission is to support in making mental health topics relevant and accessible for all black people in the U.K. We aim to fulfil this by connecting black individuals and families with free professional mental health services across the U.K'
Further Information and Resources from the Mental Health Foundation for BAME communities
Black Thrive – an organisation that aims to end the stigma associated with mental health and address mental health inequalities experienced by Lambeth’s Black communities
Sharing Voices – a charity in Bradford that aims to reduce mental health and related inequalities for BAME communities.
The Chinese Mental Health Association – an organisation that is involved in providing direct services, increasing mental health awareness and representing Chinese mental health issues in public forums and raising its profile in the overall Chinese community.