I was recently asked to write this blog about men in the ‘Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic’ (BAME) community and the stigma around mental health. The question raised is why males find it more difficult to access NHS mental health support services.
As an Expert who has Lived Experience of Mental Health Illness and being an Asian British male who has had the use of mental health support services, it is important to understand some of the complexities that many men face in the BAME community.
It seems necessary to highlight why, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic males suffering with Mental Illness have a disproportionate access ability as opposed to accessibility when it comes to mental illness. In my own opinion it just puts further emphasis on race and racial inequality factors.
However, to raise awareness and understanding of this, it might be possible to influence decisions by focusing specifically on the stigma attached with BAME men. The NHS have a duty of care to ethnicity as it’s one of the protected characteristics identified in the 2010 Equality Act. It is important to understand and recognise any cultural differences with BAME men to ensure equality when it comes to the delivery of fair assessments from the support services. In understanding this support availability, it might possibly make them feel more inclusive and integrated.
It is also worth mentioning that BAME is a term that covers a wide range of people with a very diverse range of needs. Different ethnic groups have different experiences in society that reflect their culture and context, thus they are intersectional and not a homogenous group.
It important to remain mindful that BAME men are also from various religious backgrounds, and therefore may face particular challenges in effectively being able to engage due to their beliefs.
In recent times strong research shows that Ethnic minorities are dying of Covid-19 in disproportionate high numbers. For instance, a study by the Intensive care National Audit and Research Centre (NARC) showed that 35% of patients infected by the virus were non-white, which is nearly triple the 13% proportion in UK population as a whole. The disproportionality has prompted a government national inquiry to order to understand why the virus is found in higher proportions across BAME groups.
In addition to the Government inquiry there are also many health experts and academics now searching for evidence among the multiple medical, social-economic, behavioural, cultural, environmental and biological factors that could be driving the association between Covid-19 and ethnicity.
The tight knit population of the BAME community I think could be a reason for the stigma felt within it, particularly in Mental Illness as families tend to be very judgemental of those who might suffer from poor mental health and this influences negativity in approaching help from support services. Word travels fast in closer communities and to be labelled in any way is a shame to the family. It’s quite a sad thing that this may well be the case. Confidentiality is vital to those who wish to access the support services and for many it is a question of pride and dignity.
Different communities understand and talk about mental health in different ways. In some communities, mental health problems are rarely spoken about and can be seen as a taboo subject and there is an immense amount of stigma and embarrassment attached to it. This can discourage particularly BAME males from talking about their mental health and may be a barrier to engagement with the wellbeing services. Unfortunately, from this stigma, they get more anxiety which can further create a problem for them when it comes to having the confidence in accessing any help. They require genuine ethnic cultural sensitivity from support services. Bearing this in mind there is also an increasing worry of suicide being an easy way out. This is a factor which affects many families. Drug use and economic hardships are a major contributing factor in avoiding access to services and with heightened emotions, language barriers and the fear of stigma all have a role to play and are a significant part in the avoidance of seeking help.
In summary there is a lot to think about when it comes to the BAME male community and as an Action for ACES Ambassador it is evident to me that there may be a lot of influence from a very early age within certain BAME cultures. Making the first approach typically creates fear and high levels of anxiety and perhaps there is a sense of ‘not belonging’ which may prevent social integration that creates inhibition among this community when it comes to accessing Mental Health services.
This is just my opinion and should by no means to be taken as fact.
I have however, done some research and knowing that there is the ‘McPherson Report’ in the background that highlighted a lot of disparities among certain diverse cultures and with the profoundness of this report could also be an issue that may have impacted on the access of services by BAME males. This may or may not be the case, but I am sure many studies have been made to look at this issue in more depth and detail.
I sincerely hope that accessing support will increase by BAME men in the future as there is much more emphasis and openness about mental health in the media and the acceptance within diverse cultures needs to change in terms of the stigma.
Thank you for reading this Blog.
Bill Singh is an Expert by Experience and a Social Inclusion Volunteer with GHC.