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What is diversity and difference?

Mind recognises that experiences of mental health problems vary across different groups and communities. Cultural context affects the way in which communities talk about mental health and how members of the community access services.

This, in turn, will impact how you should communicate with the people you reach out to, and how you go about ensuring that a diverse range of people take part.

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

Have you thought about:

  • people of different race or cultural diversity
  • the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community
  • people who are physically disabled
  • people with autism or learning disabilities
  • people from different socio-economic backgrounds?  (This term is used to describe the differences between groups of people relating to their social class and financial situation.)

It's important to acknowledge how all types of diversity and difference 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 very wide, 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 define 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"


When putting together this Toolkit, some of the people involved talked about challenges they have faced when working with different communities or groups and with people who have 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; in turn this will open up opportunities for future work and involvement. Developing an understanding of 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.


Identifying participants

You can use this tool to help you to 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 some of the 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.
For more top tips head to the next page.

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 reasonable time should anyone ask for them. NHS England's Accessible Information Standard can give you more guidance.

Shaping your activities / events
Understand who you would like to take part; is the activity you have planned tailored to your audience? Think about how you can ensure they are 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 really 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 the person or people with a hearing impairment need and ensure these are made available where possible. Think about hearing aid induction loops, real time subtitling and/or having a signer present.

Dietary considerations
If you are providing food, even biscuits and snacks make sure you ask all participants of any requirements they have 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 a wheelchair access the space you are using and the toilets? Is the space 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 take part and make reasonable adjustments whenever possible. People will feel valued and enabled to take part, they will gain more from the experience as they'll be able to meaningfully take part. This means you will gain too as they'll be able to share their experiences, views and ideas more easily.

Top Tips

  • Ask other teams or people who have worked with marginalised groups for advice if there's anything you're not sure about.
  • Think carefully about who 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 you want to engage with.
  • 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 important to think about how your activities or materials should be adapted to be relevant for different groups you are trying to engage with.
  • Don't make assumptions; it's better to ask questions than think you know what's right for somebody.
  • It's OK to ask people what they need and want.
  • It's OK to say you don't know.
  • It's OK to get things wrong; you won't be expected 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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