When it comes to mental health in the Black and Asian community, it is fraught with challenges. Mental health is not a topic that is so easily had in many people’s homes. It is at the very least misunderstood and at its worst ignored. Mental illness in many cultures is seen primarily as a spiritual matter. Thus, medical intervention is avoided or spurned to the detriment of the individual sufferer.
Black and Asian people are prone only to seek help at the point of crisis. We enter mental health services typically through the criminal justice route. Which means that the GP who is the first point of contact for most individuals in the community into the mental health services is being underused in the Black and Asian minority ethnic communities (BAME).
Several factors contribute to this:
- The stigma attached to mental illness
- Misunderstanding of mental illness
- Over-focus on mental illness as a spiritual matter
- Mental illness is seen as a personal weakness
- Distrust of mental health services
- Mental health services failing to meet the cultural needs of the BAME community
- There is a perception that mental health services imitate the experiences of racism and discrimination of Black people in wider society.
- Many black people, once in the mental health system, receive the more controlling and restricting aspects of treatment.
These and many more factors contribute to the reasons why mental health in the black community remains a taboo subject.
Now more than ever we have to begin to dismantle the power that stigma holds. Stigma can be the reason why someone will not receive the support and treatment necessary for their recovery until their crisis reaches its zenith. Stigma can be the reason why many people suffer in silence and decline the support and treatment provided. Stigma sometimes is the reason for the breakdown of relationships between mental health survivors and family and friends.