Racism and mental health

Racism leads to poor mental health & stops people accessing support, new report says

A new report has warned action needs to be taken to ensure the NHS is delivering equitable care after it was found people who experience racism are more likely to have poor mental health.

The report, Pursuing racial justice in mental health, draws on research from the north of England into the ways voluntary and community organisations support local people with their mental health.

The Centre for Mental Health says its publication finds that racism, not only leads to mental health issues, it also stops people accessing support and inhibits their recovery.

The report highlights how racialised communities can face obstacles to support, such as service information not being offered in their language, or when interpreters are not provided.

The affects of this are then exacerbated by poverty and poor housing, with some struggling to pay for public transport to attend mental health appointments.

“Racism is endemic in our society and is toxic to people’s mental health.”
Andy Bell,
Centre for Mental Health

People explained to researchers that visiting a GP surgery helped them access mental health services but avoid the stigma often associated with doing so.

The report, commissioned by Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership, states that voluntary organisations have a significant role to play, with their established links to in-need communities who are less likely to access support.

The NHS, however, can build stronger relationships with these organisations to help overcome the harms of racism to people’s mental health, according to the Centre for Mental Health.

The organisations says unless this is acknowledged and addressed, the NHS will not be able to offer equitable healthcare.

The Centre for Mental Health’s chief executive, Andy Bell, said: “Racism is endemic in our society and is toxic to people’s mental health.

“We heard from people living and working in Bradford District and Craven about their determination to tackle this stark inequality, and the essential role of voluntary and community organisations working alongside statutory services to make a difference.”

He continued: “We urge system leaders in other parts of the country to make a similar commitment, to work in partnership with their communities to challenge racism and racial injustice in and around their mental health services.”

“…our members are not complacent and know more work is needed…”
Sean Duggan,
NHS Confederation

Responding to the report, NHS Providers’ chief executive, Saffron Cordery, said: "Trust leaders know much more needs to be done to tackle deep-rooted structural racism, bias and discrimination in health services which leads to worse outcomes and experiences for people from an ethnic minority.

"Action needs to be taken to remove the many barriers which prevent people from ethnic minorities accessing mental health care services. Offering information in community languages, providing interpreters and ensuring services are easily and widely accessible could all have a significant and beneficial impact.”

Chief executive of the NHS Confederation’s mental health network, Sean Duggan, added: “This new report is more evidence of how far services need to go to ensure equality in access, outcomes and experience of mental health services.

“The NHS mental health sector is already implementing the anti-racism framework, which will help drive improvements and reduce inequalities within services. But our members are not complacent and know more work is needed to break down the barriers that can impede people from different racialised communities accessing support.”

Image credit: iStock

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