Healthwatch Dorset's community project: Mental Health awareness Among Black and Minority Ethnic Communities

BME-MH-JessicasProject"Mental Health awareness Among Black and Minority Ethnic Communities" was a Community Investment Project by Healthwatch Dorset in partnership with Jessica Akeb.

The project was a series of interviews with people from black and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds, gathering feedback on their views and experiences of mental health services.

Jessica Akeb Dip. PCT (Person Centred Therapy), a CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) counsellor carried out some community engagement work, gathering views from BME communities about their experiences of using mental health services. This project explored perceptions and misconceptions about mental health in general, to find out what are the factors preventing people from BME communities accessing mental health and/or counselling services.

Jessica interviewed 32 people for the study. Participants filled in a questionnaire with multiple answers and had a chance to discuss definitions of mental illness while completing the form. All participants lived in Bournemouth or Poole and were from different African countries and identified their ethnicity as African, Black British, Caribbean or from a Mixed/Dual Heritage.

Jessica’s research discovered that people often don’t feel they have service providers they can relate to in culture, experience or colour. Language barriers can sometimes make it difficult for patients to talk honestly and openly about their problems, especially if they are relying on a family member (for example a spouse or a child) or someone to interpret for them. Many of the people who took part in the study also weren’t aware of local charities and support groups that provide free help.

“Services are available but I don’t have the confidence to approach them, not knowing the confidentiality, talking to someone I can’t relate to worries me that I will be misunderstood.”

“Coming from a black ethnic background I kind of felt I could manage on my own because most people from my social group who are black as well were able to manage so it is my belief that if I got help I might come across as a failure. There is a need to decrease the high levels of ignorance people have from these groups”.



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