People with mental health problems face issues such as stigma, finding or staying in employment and housing, and fear of rejection by friends and family. This can be particularly true for people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities, who also face additional barriers, including difficulties accessing appropriate care and treatment that is culturally sensitive.
This leads to an over representation of some black and minority ethnic communities in acute mental health services at times of crisis. One in five mental health inpatients comes from a BME background, compared with about one in ten of the population as a whole (Department of Health, 2005). The government is responding to the negative experiences and outcomes faced by BME communities through the Delivering Race Equality Agenda in Mental Health. This is a five-year action plan aimed at improving experiences and outcomes for people from BME communities.
Psychiatry in the UK is usually based on a western understanding of mental illness, often using the medical model to treat the illness. Mental health means different things to different people and how we perceive mental health can be influenced by a range of factors, including cultural, spiritual or religious belief and background. When services treat people from BME backgrounds, it is important that a holistic approach and positive definitions of mental health are used, and that there is recognition of alternative perspectives and understanding.
Mental health information resources are available in a wide range of community languages:
- NHS Manchester offer a number of self-help guides and information booklets and sheets, which are free to download- click here. There are also audio guides to depression and anxiety and stress and low mood.
- Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust provide health information leaflets in Arabic, Mandarin, Polish, Urdu and many other languages. There are also audio versions for people with sight problems or who experience difficulties in reading English.
- The Department of Health offers publications in languages other than English, including some on mental health topics.
- The Royal College of Psychatrists offer translations of their mental health information resources.
There are a number of organisations in Sheffield providing services to specific black and minority ethnic communities, such as Ashiana Sheffield, the Pakistan Advice and Community Association, and the Chinese Community Centre. Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust's Transcultural Team employs Community Development Workers, who have a key role in improving mental health services for BME communities in the city.