Diverse Minds

In 1993 we 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.

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.

Diverse Minds: 1997 - 2012

The central aim was two-fold.

On the one hand, Diverse Minds has been a catalyst for change within Mind. By serving as an internal consultancy and knowledge resource, Diverse Minds influenced 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 worked 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.

Diverse Minds also worked with refugee organisations and health providers across England and Wales to improve access to mental health support for refugees and asylum seeker communities.

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.

Goal E: Removing inequality of opportunity: 2012 - present

Based on recognition of the increasing need of marginalised groups, combined with an internal push that has driven the organisation to investing more resource to deliver increased impact around Equality & Diversity, in 2012 Diverse Minds was reconfigured into the Equality Improvement Team (EIT).

EIT has a broader remit and increased strategic prioritisation than Diverse Minds.

To know more about the work of the Equality Improvement Team, please visit out Equality Improvement section

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

Past projects

Delivering Race Equality

Delivering Race Equality (DRE) is a five-year government strategy aimed at tackling ethnic disparity within the mental health system. Diverse Minds was closely involved with the development of DRE, and we continue to work with representatives of the DRE programme.

Mental Health Legislation

Through Diverse Minds we have been campaigning for improvements to the Mental Health Act, in collaboration with the National Black and Minority Ethnic Mental Health Network.

Our main concerns were about the widening of the definition of mental illness, and the broadening of what is considered 'appropriate treatment', both of which effectively lower the threshold at which the Act's powers of compulsion could be implemented.

Given the disproportionate numbers of black and minority ethnic people already subject to compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act, the likelihood is that greater numbers will be brought with in its scope.

There were also concerns around the introduction of community treatment orders (CTOs), which extend the powers of compulsory treatment beyond hospital into domestic settings. Again, the concern is that due to perceptions of race and dangerousness, professional caution will result in black and minority ethnic people being placed on CTOs where they might previously have fulfilled the criteria for discharge.

Though Diverse Minds and others were not successful in removing these aspects of the amended legislation, we did have some success in narrowing the definition of appropriate treatment, and in the limiting of CTOs to people who had previously been in-patients.

We also secured the right to advocacy for those subject to the Mental Health Act. Additionally, we secured a principle of equality within the codes of practice.

We are still working with many stakeholders to ensure that the needs of black and minority ethnic communities are prioritised during the implementation of the amended act.

Other Resources

In the past years we have worked to develop resources to promote better services for groups facing multiple discrimination. All resources are freely downloadable from our Resources page

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