I think that black history month should use the past as framework for the future. Let's use this black history month to reflect on issues we have faced, continue to face and will face in the future.
World Mental Health Day, Wednesday 10th October, also falls during Black History Month in the UK and I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that black people suffer from mental health problems too. This may seem like I'm stating the obvious but it is important that I say this for several reasons. Mental health amongst Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) groups is an under-researched area yet these groups are considered to be at a higher risk of suffering from mental health problems (Bhui & Mckenzie, 2008). There have been so many studies that show that certain mental health problems like psychosis and PTSD can affect black people at a higher rate than the rest of the population. Mind find that young African and Caribbean men are one of the most overrepresented BAME groups when it comes to inpatient admissions to mental health services in the country. So despite narratives that may suggest that mental health is something that affects white people more, black people suffer from mental health too!!!
World Mental Health Day takes place annually on the 10th October. The Mental Health Foundation states that the day is an opportunity "for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide."
The theme this year is young people and mental health in a changing world and the world is definitely changing. The ideas and understandings surrounding mental health are changing. Society is becoming more aware and accommodating to issues surrounding mental health, for example some workplaces allow staff to take days off for self-care. People are now understanding mental health and coming forward to get help for the problems they may have.
Being mentally healthy is just as important as being physically healthy, a step we can take is to stop separating the two. I think it's easier to want to improve your physical health because the symptoms may seem clearer to us. If something hurts, we know something hurts. It may be harder to differentiate emotions we feel everyday from being mentally unwell. The effects of being mentally unwell affect your daily life too. You may struggle to cope with work, school, university or life in general. You may experience emotions that are part of the human experience but to a more severe extent which you may not be able to handle. Just like physical health, your mental health goes through good and bad periods.
Something I found interesting in my research on mental health amongst black communities relates to a fact we know all too well. We know that relations between black communities and the police are often shaky. Young black people are more likely to be stopped and searched and a lot of black men in London have a story to tell about a negative experience with the police or speak of feeling targeted. Black Mental Health UK found that people of African or Caribbean descent are 50% more likely to be referred to mental health services via the police than their white counterparts. The Institute of Race Relations state that people from BAME groups are more likely to be forcibly detained under the mental health act or put in seclusion. Research also shows that when being detained, black people are 29% more likely to have been forcibly restrained than white people and are 50% more likely to be placed in seclusion and have a psychosis diagnosis. How do we avoid the contact black people have with mental health services being, sometimes violently, through the police? How do we stop it being forced and give people agency when it comes to their mental heath? How do we prevent the mental health of black people deteriorating to the point of needing to be detained under the mental health act?
It's time to challenge and get rid of the stigmas we hold within our communities about mental health and make it something we talk about. We need to acknowledge that race can shape our experience of mental health, be it the mental health problems or our experiences of services and treatment. We need to work within our communities to prevent these illnesses and also foster an environment in which those suffering with mental health problems do not feel outcasted or isolated. We need to make people feel comfortable about speaking about issues they may be facing. Creating a more understanding and accepting environment could potentially save someone's life.
Self-Care is how we as individuals take steps to improve, maintain and protect their wellbeing. It restores agency and gives us the power to look after ourselves. We often feel shy, awkward or reluctant to ask for help whether it be from others or health professionals. Self-Care provides us with ways to look after ourselves and gives us the courage and awareness to know when to visit the GP when we need to.
Dear Black Women provide a list of 35 self-care tips for black women which you can access here
Jamal Myrick suggests 5 self-care tips for black men on Blavity which you can access here
Medium suggests some methods for people of colour here
Mind give tips for everyone on how to take care of yourself here
These are just a few of the several websites that suggests ways we can carry out self-care. Some of these pages may seem to repeat what you find on others but that's because these steps are necessary!!!
For Understanding Mental Health:
To understand more about mental health, visit these sites:
Mind, a mental health charity
Mental Health Foundation, a mental health charity
The NHS have an A-Z on mental health disorders
Moodzone, for information on stress, anxiety and depression
For Accessing Mental Health Services:
For information on how to access services, visit these sites:
If you are a university student, your university may have support services for their students. Speak to your university's health services or student support departments
Google what services are available in your area. Access may differ area to area
For Suicidal Thoughts (England):
*If you need to speak to someone urgently for medical attention, the quickest route would be calling the emergency services*
The UK suicide helpline is 116 123
For urgent medical advice, please call 111.
Use the 'I Need Urgent Help' button on the Mind website, click here
There is a list of helplines on this website, click here
For Mental Health Projects for Black People:
The Mental Health Foundation explains the links between mental health and BAME groups. Find out more here
Project LETS provides a useful resource for understanding how race interlinks with metal health, they also have resources specific to race. Access them here
Mind have a range of programmes to target mental health disparities amongst black men, find out more about their work here
Mind work to improve services available for vulnerable migrants, find out more here
Mind provide information and helplines for people who identify as LGBTQ+, find out more here
The Peckham Befrienders Group is a BAME befriending service for people suffering from mental health problems. Find out more here
Kindred Minds is a service for Southwark residents that run campaigns and offer peer support. Find out more here
Time to Change explain the discrimination black people may face when it comes to mental health and offer examples of projects that attempt to change this. Find out more here