The Stigma of Mental Health in Black Communities

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2019 National Black Members' Conference
12 September 2018

Conference, although the topic of Black people’s mental health has returned to conference on several occasions in recent years, it does not appear to be improving. Mental health is a two headed beast for Black communities, firstly stigma attached to mental health prevents individuals from accessing services, when they do eventually access services they are met with services that are not suited to their needs.

The Race Disparity Audit published in late 2017 showed how this two headed beast effects black populations. The data showed that black adults were the least likely to report being in receipt of counselling, therapy medication. Common mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression were most prevalent amongst black women, black men on the other hand are 10 times more likely to have experienced a psychotic disorder within the last year compared to the white male population and the most likely to have been detained under the Mental Health Act.

The Time to Change campaign that aims to tackle mental health stigma across society conducted research looking at the experiences of south Asian populations. The research found that fear, ignorance, social conformity and marriage prospects affected the mental health of south Asian communities and the associated stigma prevented and open discussion about mental health taking place in the wider community. This is particularly concerning as the Mental Health Foundation charity recognises that rates of suicide amongst young Asian women are high compared to other ethnic groups.

If we are to improve the experiences of Black people effected by mental health then we must take a multi headed approach, we can insist that services improve, that they become more culturally appropriate, however we must also insist that we ourselves change how we view mental health. Conference we must fight to get the message across to our communities that a mental health illness is just an illness, as with a physical illness some will be more severe than others, it is not a life sentence, recovery is possible.

Conference therefore calls upon the National Black Members Committee to:

1)Work with Time to Change to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health in black communities;

2)To produce a leaflet aimed at Black members to raise awareness of the resources that UNISON has to help those effected by mental health;

3)Write regular articles covering specific mental health illness’s in Black Action;

4)Have a workshop at the 2020 National Black Members Conference on promoting self care with the aim to improving and maintaining good mental health.