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3rd May 2019

Black Mind's Matter - Frontline Therapist

Mental health is a hot topic these days.

 

But what is it and why is it important? 

 

Mental health is about how you as an individual feel about yourself. Mental health is not the absence of a mental ill-health, but it is the overall sense of how you think, feel, behave and relate with other people. Therefore, mental illness is an abnormality in the way an individual might think, feel and relate with others. 

 

As black people in the West, particularly in the UK. We grow up with the cultural messages that to achieve anything in life, we have to work two times harder than our white counterparts. Racial constructs become noticeable at a young age when you are faced with feeling different from your peers because of the darker complexion of your skin. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to mental health in the Black and Asian community, it is wrought with challenges. 

 

Mental health first of is not a topic that is so easily had in many people’s homes. It is at the very least misunderstood and at it’s worst ignored. Mental illness in many cultures is seen primarily as a spiritual matter. Thus, medical intervention is avoided or spurned to the detriment of the individual sufferer. 

 

The statistics surrounding mental illness in the Black and Asian community has changed very little in 20 years. In fact, the statistics if anything has shown that being a Black or Asian man or woman means that we will have to fight ten times harder to maintain our mental health than our white counterparts. 

The mental health foundation has found that Black and Asian individuals are:

  • More likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems

  • More likely to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital  

  • More likely to experience a poor outcome from treatment 

  • More likely to disengage from mainstream mental health services, leading to social exclusion and a deterioration in their mental health.

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I do not know about you, but these statistics sadden me. It shows that this is a social issue that will not be resolved anytime soon. 

Black and Asian people are prone only to seek help at the point of crisis, and we enter mental health services typically through the criminal justice route. Which means that the GP who is the first point of contact for most individuals in the community into the mental health services is being underused in the Black and Asian minority ethnic communities (BAME). 

Several factors contribute to this:

  • The stigma attached

  • Misunderstanding of mental illness

  • Over-focus on mental illness as a spiritual matter

  • Mental illness seeing as a personal weakness

  • Distrust of mental health services

  • Mental health services failing to meet the cultural needs of the BAME community

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Psychological therapy is another topic in the BAME community that is frequently disregarded. Research indicates that black men are disadvantaged by inaccessibility to psychological therapies. NICE recognises the shortfall of Black and Asian people being offered and accessing psychological therapies. When they do access therapy through the NHS, they are more likely to report poorer outcomes.

 

NICE recommends that mental health services are delivered in a culturally competent way. Which means that any mental health service should provide as part of their provision specific cultural solutions to the needs of the individuals they are attempting to serve. For example, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, through their local ‘Birmingham Healthy Minds’ initiative; recognised that BAME communities face particular culturally sensitive barriers to accessing these services, thus, adapted their services. 

They did this by making the following adjustments:

  • Develop a culturally sensitive treatment group; where patients could feel that their ethnic, cultural and spiritual beliefs were understood by the group facilitator.

  • Address any language barriers or literacy issues that might prevent the uptake of group interventions.

  • Encourage uptake by the South Asian community; particularly women from the South Asian community.

  • Increase the confidence of Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWP) in delivering interventions in languages other than English. Therapy (CBT) continues to evolve; it is important that these developments are able to increase the engagement of the BME population.

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Through the qualitative feedback, they found that the service users reported that felt very much at home because of these changes and quantitively the psychoeducational group was effective in achieving recovery for those with mild-moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

What this signifies is that there is a need for a mental health service that is both culturally sensitive and competent. That is why I started Frontline Therapist a mental health service that aims to make psychological therapy accessible for Black and Asian Minority Ethnic Individuals. We do this in two ways. 

 

  1. Connect Black and Asian Minority Ethnic Individuals with qualified Black and Asian Minority Ethnic Therapists, counsellors and psychologists in the community.

  2. Multi-cultural Counselling: a low-cost counselling service that is culturally sensitive. 

Deciding to have therapy is not like trying to buy a new pair of shoes. It takes some thought and courage to admit that you require help. Help does not mean you have to be in crisis, in actual terms it means you recognise that speaking to an individual that is trained to listen to you and facilitate a safe space for healing and growth is an investment into your health. 

Some of the benefits of therapy are that therapy can help you handle emotions from the problems or stressors that you face. Therapy can provide you with problem-solving techniques and be a tool for overcoming anxiety, depression and addiction.

 

I have found it truly rewarding to match many individuals with therapists in the community. Feedback from one woman, in particular, said my experience with Frontline was positive, responses were fast, and you tailored your search again when we realised, they were too far. I managed to find a therapist that matched my criteria and is close to where I work. But honestly, very grateful for your services because it gave me the push I needed to finally commit to getting a therapist. 

Nana, 24, Work in Education.

 

The colour of the therapist’s skin does not determine the therapist effectiveness and skill. However, there is nothing like walking into a therapists office and seeing the face of someone that not only looks like you but may understand your unique experience as a Black or an Asian individual living in white mainstream society.

Invest in your mental health, seek help, seek therapy.

 

The Frontline Therapist is currently under construction so please contact us by emailing hello@frontlinetherapist.co.uk or our socials. 

 

 

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