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What is diversity and difference?

We at Mind recognise that experiences of mental health problems vary across different groups and communities. 

Cultural context affects how communities talk about mental health. This context will affect how members of the community access services, thus impacting how you will choose to communicate with these people, ensuring a diverse range of people take part.

Remember – diversity and difference hold distinct meanings for different people.

It is essential to consider:

  • those from racialised backgrounds;
  • members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community; and
  • people from different socio-economic (socio-economic is a term that describes the differences between people's social class and financial situation) backgrounds;
  • the physically disabled; and
  • those with autism or learning disabilities.

It's important to acknowledge how all types of diversity and differences impact a person's identity and their experience of mental health. So, consider how various groups can participate in and influence your work and how you can reflect everyone's experiences.

Jonathan Andrews explains that the number of ways autism can affect people is almost limitless. The same is true of mental health, since not only is the range of mental health problems extensive, but two people with the same condition are likely to experience it differently.

"It's very important to remember the diversity of autistic people... they can be male or female, or identify as another non-binary gender; they can be straight, or LGBTQ+, any race, age, nationality and social background, and can have experience of other disabilities and conditions besides mental health."

For more information and guidance on reaching different communities, see:

Sarah-Jane's video

Sarah-Jane talks about the way the Mind equality improvement team works to make the organisation more accessible for different communities, including within the Side by Side programme.

"I think the way that Mind is really benefiting from this piece of work is really to increase our understanding, strengthen our connections within those communities so that they know Mind is actually an organisation that they can go to and feel welcomed feel supported and get the help they need"

Challenges

When putting together this Toolkit, some of the people involved talked about challenges they have faced when working with different communities or groups and people with multiple needs. Often, staff are afraid of getting it wrong or simply not knowing how best to approach people and situations.

In planning any opportunity for influence and participation, think about how you can reach out to different groups. How can you meet their needs and hear what they've got to say in a way that makes sense to them? Remember – the aim should be to build trust and nurture long-term partnerships.

Getting input from people who understand and have contact with the communities you are hoping to involve will enable you to build relationships and trust; this will open up opportunities for future work and involvement. Understanding how mental health problems are perceived and discussed can also help shape the way you communicate with participants, encouraging them to feel confident about taking part.

Tools

Identifying participants

You can use this tool to help you think about which audiences and specific groups you would like to take part in your work, the methods you need to use and who can help you do this.

With instructions | Without instructions

The Diversity and difference checklist can help you think about specific aspects of your activity to make sure you're giving full consideration to how you will reach out to and work with people from diverse groups.

Use this checklist to remind yourself of things you'll need to think about when engaging with people from different groups and those with specific support needs.

You can download a printable document of the list below here.

Diversity and difference checklist

Accessible reading formats

Are your written materials available in a range of different formats? Think about easy read, large print, braille. You don't have to make all your materials available in all different formats, but you should have a process in place to ensure you can provide them within a reasonable time should anyone ask for them. NHS England's Accessible Information Standard can give you more guidance.

Shaping your activities/events

Understand whom you would like to take part. Is the activity you have planned tailored to your audience? Think about how you can ensure relevant and safe spaces for people to come to.

Different language needs 

Have you thought about the needs of people who don't speak English or are learning English as a second language? Think about whether you can have written resources translated or if a translator is needed. If you don't have resources for this, what other provision can you make?

Cultural perspectives

How people understand and talk about mental health will be personal to them, their culture's understanding and perspective on mental health will affect this. Think about the language & methods you use to ensure they are relevant; it can be helpful to speak with community leaders or organizations to understand how best to hear views and work together. An example of this is The Qur'an & Emotional Health project.

Hearing impairments

Ensure you understand what people with hearing impairments need, and ensure you meet these needs if possible. Think about hearing aid induction loops, real-time subtitling or having a signer present.

Dietary considerations 

If you plan to provide food, even just biscuits and snacks, make sure you ask all participants about any requirements before the activity. Think about allergies, religious restrictions, religious holidays, e.g. Ramadan, and medical considerations, e.g. Diabetes

Wheelchair access/dimensions 

Always ask participants if they have any mobility requirements. Think about the venue you are using. Can wheelchairs access the space and toilets? Is the room you are using on the 1st floor or higher? Find out if there's a working lift to enable anyone who can't use the stairs access.

Always ask people what they need to participate and make reasonable adjustments whenever possible. Doing so will:

  • make people feel valued and able to take part;
  • allow people to gain more from the session; and
  • facilitate you gaining more as participants will be more readily able to share their experiences, views, and ideas.

Top Tips

  • If there's anything you're not sure about, ask other teams or people who have worked with marginalised groups for advice.
  • Think carefully about whom you need or want to take part and what methods you'll use. Make sure your methods are appropriate and engaging for your participants.
  • Build relationships with influencers and key people within the communities with which you want to engage.
  • Everybody has individual experiences and perceptions of what having a mental health problem means; this is sometimes called a model of reality. Work from within the community's model of reality; don't try to impose yours.
  • Being inclusive doesn't mean treating everyone in the same way. It is crucial to consider how you should adapt your activities or materials to be relevant for different groups you are engaging with.
  • Make an effort not to make assumptions. It's better to ask questions than think you know what's suitable for somebody.
  • It's okay to ask people what they need and want.
  • It's okay to say you don't know.
  • It's okay to get things wrong. No one will expect you to know everything.
  • Make sure you plan thoroughly; never underestimate the scope of what you might need to factor in.

Other ways to get involved

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