How are black people treated differently when receiving mental health support?

Written by on 20/09/2021

Research conducted by the mental health charity Mind found that over 50% of people don’t speak up about any mental health problems they are dealing with as they do not wish to bother and burden others with their issues. However, the same study found that 85% of people said they felt an increase in mood when their friends and loved ones confided in them.

We are already aware of the fact that for various reasons, those who are black and of ethnic minority are more severely affected by the COVID-19 virus than those who aren’t. Now, there is growing evidence that mental health, which has only been exacerbated by the isolation caused by the pandemic, also has a disproportional effect on people of colour.

Studies have shown that black men are more likely to have developed a psychotic disorder within the last year than white men. However, black people are far more likely to be misdiagnosed and discriminated against when accessing mental health services, as well as less likely to receive psychological therapies. This may be due to the fact that black people are 40% more likely to access treatment for mental health issues through a police or criminal justice route, the study by Mind found. Members of Police Forces tend to not have sufficient training and the skills needed to deal with those who are suffering from a mental health or psychotic episode, and this is before we take into account the all-too-common racial discrimination that people of colour receive from these institutions.

Statistics have also unfortunately revealed that black people are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act of 1983 than white people. This law allows a doctor or medical establishment to detain an individual (also known as being sectioned) and treat them without their consent or agreement, if they are considered at risk of harming to themselves or others.

Annie Gibbs is the founder of Amour Destine, a UK-based organization which aims to help “women affected by, but not limited to traumatic care experiences, domestic abuse and sexual violence work towards building the lives they desire.”

She said “Addressing the mental health traumas experienced by many within our community is crucial in securing a hopeful future, where the voices of those most in need of accessing the right support and services will be heard. Mental health is an issue in our community which often leads to people struggling for long periods of time, as well as being misdiagnosed due to lack of cultural and trauma-informed approaches of services.”

Fortunately, the discussion of both racism and mental health has markedly increased over the past few years. The murder of George Floyd in May 2020, as well as the mass isolation across the globe allowed plenty of time for reflection by the black community. Due to this, the issues of racial discrimination, as well as the people’s mental health were widely discussed on both social media, and by mainstream news outlets. However, we still have a very long way to go until things will be perfect and equal, but every step in the right direction is an achievement that should be celebrated.

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