Background and aims
In 1993 Mind published a policy on Black and Minority Ethnic mental health which highlighted major concerns about the impact of racism on people's lives, on their mental health and on the services they receive. The policy showed that:
- the diverse needs of people from different cultural, religious and ethnic communities are often not met in mental health services.
- black people are more likely than white people to be detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act by the police, compulsorily detained in hospital, diagnosed with schizophrenia and given high doses of medication.
- primary care and community care services are often under-used by people from black and minority ethnic communities.
The policy also highlighted the way people's experiences of mental health services may differ according to their ethnicity, gender and social class. Depression and suicide rates are high among Asian women, for example, yet services are often not appropriate to their needs - they may be placed in mixed sex psychiatric wards, contrary to their religious and cultural beliefs.
Mind's policy on black and minority ethnic mental health called for action, including better information, translation and interpreting services, training for mental health staff, less coercion into the psychiatric and criminal justice systems, and support for black and minority ethnic organisations. This led to the formation of Diverse Minds in 1997.
Significant improvement in the experiences of black and minority ethnic people's contact with mental health services has been made over the 13 years of Diverse Minds' existence. Examples include a general acceptance and understanding of the social drivers of disproportionately negative experiences of services across various ethnic groups.
There are also specific legal and policy initiatives, including the Race Relations amendment Act (2000), Delivering Race Equality (DRE), and associated race equality schemes. Such initiatives are now a central priority for Ministers, Department of Health and others responsible for the commissioning and delivery of mental health services.
That said, as revealed by the latest national Count Me In Census (Healthcare Commission, 2008), Black Caribbean, people form black and minority ethnic communities, and African-Caribbean people in particular, are substantially more likely to be detained under the mental health act. Despite the 'community engagement' focus of DRE, over-representation of black and minority ethnic people at the secure end of the mental health system, and under-representation at the primary care end remains the norm. Clearly, there is still work to be done.
The central aim is two-fold.
On the one hand, Diverse Minds is a catalyst for change within Mind. By serving as an internal consultancy and knowledge resource, Diverse Minds influences the work of the whole of Mind, ensuring that it is considerate of and responsive to the needs of diverse ethnic groups.
On the other, Diverse Minds works with a network of like-minded organisations and individuals to push for changes in mental health policy and practice that remedy current inequalities experienced by black and minority ethnic communities.
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