Mental health is something we all have, any of us at any time can experience poor mental health without any prior experience, no one is immune to it. It’s a fact, regardless of your background or walk of life. However, the chances of having mental ill health are not equal and some people are more likely to suffer from mental health than others.
With 14% of our population in England and Wales represented by minority groups there’s no wonder that those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities are affected. In a recent study conducted during the 2020 lockdown by University College London (UCL) found that in relation to mental health, those from BAME backgrounds have had higher levels of depression and anxiety across the pandemic, and lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction.
But why? It’s surprisingly simple, some of the reasons why there are different rates of mental illness for people from BAME backgrounds are due to:
· inequalities in wealth and living standards,
· bias, discrimination, and racism,
· stigma about mental health, and
· they are less likely to have mental health issues identified in the criminal justice system
People from BAME backgrounds are more likely to be living in poverty than white people. And people living in poverty are more likely to develop and experience mental health issues.
It’s important to remember that these statistics may not paint the true picture when it comes to mental health within the BAME community. The sole reason for this is the lack of data available along with the fact that those in BAME communities are far less likely to report poor mental health.
Some of the issues that surround poor mental health in BAME communities include racism and inequalities. Since the George Lloyd killing in the USA in 2020, there has been considerable amount of awareness raised in the Black Lives Matters movement. Racism can affect a person’s mental health; this can often appear as micro aggression (subtle but offensive comments) to physical aggression. Suffering racism can be very traumatic and have a huge negative effect on overall health and mental health. It doesn’t end there, add in a global pandemic and ethnic minority individuals have a substantially higher risk of COVID-related death than white people, this adds extra pressure on individuals including anxiety and stress.
As we’ve seen over the last few years it’s clear that those in BAME communities are more likely to face poverty, homelessness, be unemployed and face challenges accessing services. Each of these critical elements adds to the stress and pressure adding to ill mental health.
In different minority communities there’s also stigma attached to mental health, in some communities’ mental health isn’t spoken about openly and sometimes can be seen as embarrassing or shameful.
It’s clear to see the disparities within the BAME community and how mental health can be affected and therefore diversity and mental health is an important subject to tackle.
There’s no question that mental health has been around long before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, but during this time it has made many organisations and individuals see the affects poor mental health can have on individuals. It was reported by Deloitte in 2020 that poor mental health was costing employees £45 BILLION per year in employee costs. Organisations have been forced to evolve and support employees through uncertainty, anxiety, and stress. The question is: what happens beyond this pandemic, moving forwards and the emphasis on employees and their wellbeing, mental health and importantly cultural diversity and inclusion.
As with any life changing event, there’s no doubt this has an affect on people during and after. The most common reported issues during the pandemic affecting individuals were, worry about the future (63%), feeling stressed or anxious (56%) and feeling bored (49%).
In April 2021, data showed that people contacting the NHS for mental health support was at a record high.
It’s clear from the data that has been recorded over the last 18 months that the pandemic has had long lasting affects on many of us. We feel it’s therefore, imperative that organisations, businesses, and individuals recognise that everyone has mental health, it just depends on whether it’s at maximum or minimum. We must also acknowledge that some individuals are more likely to suffer than others. Creating an open conversation with employees, colleagues, friends, and family is important to breaking the stigma of mental health that still exists in our society.
Breaking the stigma allows individuals to understand and gain confidence that they are not alone and in turn help them access the help they may require to help them. It also allows us to build stronger, powerful relationships that also imbed trust.
We would urge everyone, after reading this article, to check in with your friends, family and colleagues, ask them how they really are, and discuss how they feel. If you’re in a business, assess whether you have the support for your employees that they need. Do they know where to access help should they require it? Is it easy to access? Is it utilised enough; do people feel they are able to use the service? Analyse whether the services you have implemented are being used by your employees. As businesses we must also remember that managers are not always equipped with the tools, they often feel the weight of others in their team, are your managers being thought of? Is the support delivered from the top down?
As we go forwards beyond this pandemic, it’s certain that the issues will continue into the years to come, especially with those from minority backgrounds and young adults who were severely affected by the pandemic. It’s not going to be an overnight fix; it must be a continued effort by everyone to break the stigma keep talking openly about mental health.
If you take something away from reading this article today this is it: those in BAME backgrounds are more likely to have mental health, but it’s important to recognise your own obstacles and seek for help. Never suffer alone, always reach out there’s someone out there to help regardless of who you are.
Written by: Leila Hobart, Founder of InspireUK.
Here at InspireUK we are proud and to be working with a number of leading industry facilitators to support businesses to imbed, mental health, wellbeing and diversity and inclusion into their organisation. Our mission is to break down barriers. We want to empower and educated companies to enable them to thrive. We work with every business on a bespoke basis because after all, no two businesses are the same!
Additionally, we offer individual private counselling services for anyone needing support with qualified counsellors and therapist.
NB: We understand that not everyone likes the term BAME. It covers a wide range of people with a diverse range of needs. However, it can be a helpful term to show people who aren’t White British can face issues and challenges because of their ethnicity. We use BAME term in this piece but acknowledge people can find it unsatisfying or prefer to use a different term to describe their ethnicity.
Dr Daisy Fancourt, Dr Feifei Bu, Dr Hei Wan Mak, Prof Andrew Steptoe Department of Behavioural Science & Health 1 st July 2020. Covid-19 Social Study Results Release 15
Mental Health Foundation. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/b/black-asian-and-minority-ethnicbame-communities (Accessed 14th June 2021).