Mental health and wellbeing are topics that have been shown more light in recent years, and rightly so. Although we as a society have far to go, there have been major developments in communities in regards to the support needed for mental health. However, there is still a stigma that remains in some minority communities. Everyone is entitled to the same mental health services and treatments, but why do some not access them?
It is important to remember that minority communities migrated from different countries, that accepted different customs and cultural beliefs. The study of mental health and its protection is relatively new and has mainly been practised in western culture. There is an unspoken rule among some minority communities of ‘keep silent and carry on’ following traditional cultural values. Mental health is a topic that may not be discussed in some households which complies with the cycle of silence. These generational beliefs are passed onto us, causing the inevitable inter-generational trauma. First and second-generation immigrants are past the trauma suffered by their predecessors. This includes the exclusion, racism and cultural identity crisis’ that arise in society. We are raised with the cultural beliefs of our parents whilst also growing up with western values, which is why is more imperative than ever to protect the mental health of minority communities.
The trauma suffered by minority communities is large and needs to be acknowledged. Statistically, BAME people are less likely to report mental health problems. As well as growing up with a certain stigma surrounding mental health, we also suffer from other challenges such as racism and societal inequalities. There is a struggle with our own cultural identities, and this in itself can cause a decline in mental health and wellbeing. Many moved to western countries in the hope of a new life, which is then pressured onto the next generation. The main goals in life become to do well in school, get a good job and uphold your familial traditions. We are also told to respect our elders, so we rarely question these goals. Immigrants constantly experience economic and social uncertainty, so the pressure is formed on the next generation to do be able to tackle this. However, this can potentially result in silence and indirect communication about other priorities. Thus, there is less importance placed on mental health.
There are also barriers to getting support for minority communities. Choosing to access support is already a huge step, but certain restrictions and barriers can make this difficult. One barrier that has proven to be more common in BAME communities when they access mental health is white mental health professionals not understanding their experiences of racism and discrimination. Some mental health conditions stem from these experiences and the trauma it causes. By having a professional that has in-depth knowledge and a complete understanding of racial injustice, there is a sense of relief and creates a comfortable space.
There are also other barriers such as language and finances. Immigrants who cannot speak English fluently are often held at a disadvantage as it is difficult to find mental health support that caters to their language needs. Not only does this highlight the need to diversify mental health support and make it more accessible, but this also proves how difficult it can be to even access for some.
The conversation surrounding BAME mental health is vital to the various communities that are suffering from mental health conditions. By addressing these traumas, we can move forward and heal. We can tackle this ‘silent’ stigma, and create an open dialogue amongst minority communities which will prompt more people to access mental health support. We can break the cycle of intergenerational trauma through unification and communication.
I have included some mental health support services below:
The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network, www.baatn.org.uk
Boloh (for BAME people affected by the pandemic) call 0800 151 2605
Samaritans, call 116 123
Connect with Natasha HERE