Mental health and the black community

If you’ve been in or around the mental health scene for long you’ll have realised two things:

  1. Community support services, especially service user groups, are often made up of mostly white people
  2. On the flipside, when you get onto the wards, you’ll meet a lot more black people

Why is this? What’s gone wrong? We don’t pretend to have the answers. As always, the people we need to speak to are the people who are affected. That’s why we were really excited when Ursula Myrie, founder of ADIRA, asked us to be involved in ADIRA’s upcoming conference – Mental Health and Me: the unspoken taboo in the black community.

Ursula told us she hopes the conference will be an opportunity for people to ask honest questions, with a two-way dialogue. There are undoubtedly issues within services, often at the very least people experience services failing to appreciate and support cultural difference. On top of this, specific taboos and sensitivities can become barriers to people seeking and getting the support they need.

Over the years we’ve spoken to a variety of people who have experienced these issues. We’ve heard stories of people who have had their traditions disrespected while in hospital, and others of people being slighted and left out. We spoke to a man who explained that the Somali word for depression is slightly different from our medicalised model – illustrating how different cultures understand mental health – with the translation along the lines of ‘falling out of life’.

There are bits and pieces happening in Sheffield to try and address these issues, but there needs to be much more (and we include ourselves in this).

We hope this event will be a catalyst for change. There may be some difficult conversations, but that’s what conferences should be about: honesty, communication, moving forward. We’re really impressed by the work Ursula has done bringing this together. It fits in well with a wider movement of BME service users in the country, for example Kindred Mind’s manifesto for social justice.

One of the reasons we’ve written this blog is we’d love to know what the community think, and get the conversation going right away.

Do you have any questions you want to ask the panel. Please send your thoughts to info@sheffieldflourish.co.uk and we’ll select a few to ask on the day.

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