Mental Health Issues Affecting Young Black People

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2017 National Black Members' Conference
19 September 2016
Carried as Amended

This National Black Members’ Conference notes that Black people are far more likely to be diagnosed with a serious mental illness and in Britain are 17 times more likely than white counterparts to be diagnosed with a psychotic illness. There is a problem of inequality when it comes to mental health. With ongoing austerity, poverty, neglect, and abuse are just some of the factors contributing to the issue. Our young Black people make a good percentage of these numbers.

Young people can experience a range of mental health problems. Childhood and teenage years are a time when you are usually changing rapidly and developing all the time. They often have to cope with many different situations and unfamiliar challenges like exams, relationships and the other pressures of growing up. While often it’s possible to talk to parents or carers about feelings, some still find it hard to do so. They might express how they feel through being moody, getting in trouble at school or at home or by becoming angry easily. Some people also get odd aches and pains that can happen when you’re not able to say what you’re feeling. This can be more difficult with young Black people who have suffered by being isolated in the society, they are often left alone to go through this state of confusion without support or someone they can look up to as a mentor, when they experience these unpleasant feelings this might lead to more serious problems.

Conference, with the experience that patients have reported to have received, there have been calls for an end to physical restraint in hospitals and for police officers to be trained with Black mental health service users so that they always respond humanely to the distress of young people. If people feel confident that they will be well treated by public servants there is a better chance they will seek the help they need early enough to make the most positive difference.

Mental Health is an issue that disproportionately affects Black young people which is reflected in various stats. As the problem continues so do cuts to public services providing essential support. This has been shown very clearly in new research by NatCen Social Research for UNISON into the effect of cuts on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and services. Cuts to mainstream mental health services mean ever growing waiting lists, reduced access to talking therapies, and greater reliance on drugs. The inevitable consequence is people turning to negative coping mechanisms such as self-harm and substance misuse.

Prejudice and discrimination add to the mix. Young Black LGB and young Black trans people face particular issues and the precious specialist services that have supported them are disappearing, leaving them with nowhere to turn.

Mental Health does not only affect vulnerable young Black people but their families left to care for them. One way to of providing support to young Black people experiencing mental health issues is by identifying positive role models to act as mentors, male and female – this would be a positive and rewarding experience for both the young person & the mentor.

This National Black Members’ Conference calls on the National Black Members’ Committee (NBMC) to:-

1)Help raise awareness on tackling the problem of mental health issues, inequality and how resources can reach the most vulnerable.

2)Discuss with Labour Link and explore how to stop the funding cuts on organisations who work directly with vulnerable young Black people

3)Publicise the findings on mental health services from the NatCen research for UNISON ‘Implications of reductions to public spending for LGBT people and services’

4)Look at ways to encourage Black members/people to step in and serve as mentors when they are needed and signpost to where they can find out more about this process.