Each year, October marks Black History Month in the UK, a celebration and commemoration of the impact and contributions that Black people make to society.
History has highlighted how racism impacts Black people’s mental health. Events of 2020 and the #BlackLivesMatter movement have continued to hold up a mirror that reflects back to us the reality of the impact racism has on mental health, and what can be achieved if we listen, understand and then act to make real and lasting change.
The insights around Black people’s mental health are clear. Change needs to happen. In the year to March 2019, Black people were more than four times as likely as white people to be detained under the Mental Health Act. Black women experience substantially higher rates of mental health problems than white women, and black men experience psychosis around 10 times more frequently than white men.*
As one of our Clinical Supervisors Amanda wrote in her recent blog about the impact of racism on mental health: “One huge breakthrough has been our acknowledgement of just how rife inequality and injustice still are. On the positive side, it’s heart-warming to learn that many in our society want to break down the barriers to a more equal and just future. One barrier is in understanding just how psychologically damaging racial tensions have been. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have often found myself silenced or even worse, explaining away my experiences, emotions and behaviours at the fear of being stereotyped as ‘playing the race card’ - so I have often retreated within.”
Black History Month serves as a time to highlight the contributions of so many, particularly at a time when inequalities within the system show the disproportionate effect on Black people. From the key workers who have been at the frontline of the Coronavirus pandemic and putting their own mental health on the line, to our volunteers and staff who have been supporting those who are struggling to cope, to campaigners such as Baroness Lawrence who are working tirelessly in the fight for justice against racism, these everyday contributions are vital.
As this month comes to an end, at Shout we want to use this as a moment to look to the future too and ensure we are playing a part in Black people having readily available mental health support. We know that black people are underrepresented in the current population of our texters, with 1.4% of respondents identifying as Black, versus 3% of the UK population. As a free, confidential service we also know that we can fulfil a need here.
We are embarking on a pilot project where we will work with local London community groups to understand the barriers young Black men have to using Shout.
Men from Black communities in the UK have far higher levels of diagnosed severe mental illness than other communities, with disproportionately high rates of suicidal risk. They are more likely to face multiple and significant risk factors for poor mental health, including the stresses of living in poverty, housing insecurity, difficulties at school, involvement in violence and subsequent reduced access to opportunities.**
We’ll develop messaging and a campaign to motivate and enable the audience to reach out to us, with the longer term goal being to roll out this work in communities across the UK.
We know that all of the changes we want to see will not be accomplished overnight, but we will continue to push for those who are underrepresented.
We’re listening, learning and are committed to progress.
Some useful resources:
The Black African and Asian Therapy Network: https://www.baatn.org.uk/free-services/
Black Minds Matter UK:
Black Thrive: https://www.blackthrive.org.uk/
Therapy for Black Girls: https://www.instagram.com/p/CAxdC8EH_MB/
UK Black Pride: https://www.ukblackpride.org.uk/