What is diversity and difference?
At Mind, we recognise that experiences of mental health problems vary across different groups and communities. On this page, learn what it means to involve diversity and difference in your lived experience work.
Cultural context affects how communities talk about mental health and how members of the community access services.
This will impact how you communicate with these communities, to make sure a diverse range of people take part.
Remember – diversity and difference hold distinct meanings for different people.
It's essential to consider:
- People from racialised backgrounds
- Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community
- People from different socio-economic (socio-economic is a term that describes the differences between people's social class and financial situation) backgrounds
- People who are physically disabled
- People with autism or learning disabilities
"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."
How to acknowledge diversity and difference
It's important to acknowledge how all types of diversity and difference impact a person's identity and their experience of mental health.
Consider how 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. The range of mental health problems people experience is extensive, and 2 people with the same mental health problem are likely to experience it differently.
Reaching different communities
For more information and guidance on reaching different communities, see:
- Commissioning mental health services for vulnerable migrants: guidance for commissioners
- Working with young Black men to improve their mental health. You can discover some key learnings and recommendations in our Against the Odds programme evaluation
- Working to help improve the outcomes of young African and Caribbean men in inpatient mental health services. You can discover key learnings and find out how to set up a similar participation framework in our 300 Voices toolkit
In the video below, Sarah-Jane talks about the way the Mind equality improvement team works to make the organisation more accessible for different communities.
"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've 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.
Diversity and difference checklist
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.
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 or 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 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 else can you do?
How people understand and talk about mental health will be personal to them, and their culture's understanding and perspective on mental health will affect this.
Think about the language and methods you use to ensure they are relevant. It can be helpful to speak with community leaders or organisations to understand how best to hear views and work together.
An example of this is The Qur'an & Emotional Health project.
Make sure 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.
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 like Ramadan, and medical considerations like diabetes.
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 first 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
- Mean you gain more as participants will be more readily able to share their experiences, views, and ideas
- 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 who you need or want to take part
- Think about what methods you'll use, and make sure they're appropriate and engaging for your participants.
- Build relationships with influencers and key people in the communities 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's crucial to consider how you should adapt your activities or materials to be relevant for different groups you're engaging with
- Don't 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