Do you ever think of the time when you will turn old and start losing track of your memory, gradually forgetting entirely about your identity? Well, it is certainly not a pleasant thought. Dementia and memory loss related diseases have a way of creeping into our lives as we age. Studies reveal that spouses become rock-solid pillars of support in times like these, and help their better halves see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But if you belong to the black, Asian or any other minority ethnic (BAME) community, things won’t be that easy for you. Dementia, just like any other mental illness, is still making baby steps in terms of awareness within these communities. There might be a few frantic phone calls to the folks back home who trivialise it as homesickness. There might be phases of denial where you try and convince yourself that you are just fine.
Then, one fine morning you would not even be able to twitch a muscle of your body, all thanks to the mind-numbing pain from ignoring your mental health from too long. This is when you finally visit that primary healthcare centre– the only one that you can afford in town – only to be belittled, laughed at, or worse, have your problems shrugged away by the doc on call.
Mental health, dementia and BAME community: the real picture
If you were under the impression that things have changed for the better with technological and educational advancements, allow me to say that you are wrong. According to studies, people from BAME community still have the lowest treatment rate when compared to white and other nationals of the same country. The socio-economic factors affecting the lifestyle and livelihood of the BAME community results in higher rate of psychosis and PTSD, especially among women.With a large number of people in the UK already affected with dementia, it is predicted that the numbers will reach over a million people in the country by 2021. BAME community members constitute a significant portion of those people.
What obstacles stand in the way of BAME community when accessing healthcare?
The people belonging to the BAME community lack the awareness and education regarding mental health and healthcare services, which happens to be the first obstacle. Secondly, they face obstacles pertaining to accessing and using healthcare once they reach the medical centres. Thirdly, there are infrastructural hindrances and administrative problems like healthcare policies and cost that keep them from attaining their basic medical rights.
Obstacles in identifying mental health issues
The BAME community’s social, religious and cultural responses to mental health problems pose quite an issue. They prefer care-giving tendencies, with the daughters looking after the parents affected with dementia. When it comes to accessing medical care for their mental health, most of the people from the community do not even recognise the most tell-tale of signs. Gossip, negative stereotyping and social rejection from their communities keep them from asking for help when they need it the most.
Obstacles while seeking medical assistance
Lots of people from the BAME community choose to suffer in silence when they go through a difficult mental phase in their lives. Studies conducted on the BAME community individuals revealed that most of them choose to forget about their mental health issues rather than talking to someone about it. This is mostly due to the fear that they would not be met with an enthusiastic or cooperative response when opening up about their dementia to family members or religious/community leaders.
Pre-conceived notions of mental illnesses
When discussing mental health problems with their physicians, BAME community individuals focused more on moving to a new country, family issues, psychological stress, and substance misuse as the primary concerns. This goes on to show that they are mostly unaware of the physiological manifestations of diseases like dementia that might leave visible marks on their bodies and lead to rapid weight loss or unintentional scratching. Hence, these pre-conceived notions on mental health resulting from the cultural model also pose problems for the BAME community.
Obstacles at primary healthcare facilities
Most BAME community individuals note that they consult physicians long after the symptoms become severe. This often leads to issues with diagnosis and prognosis, and in most cases, the patient does not get the care they deserve. Given that most primary healthcare practitioners do not think twice before prescribing them with a steady dose of off-the-shelf anti-depressants, BAME individuals shy away from seeking help at all. Primary healthcare practitioners are often dismissive towards their mental health issues and trivialise it, making matters much worse for the patients.
Problems with accessibility in healthcare
Poverty and the socio-economic background of the community should be taken into account while designing a dementia healthcare facility for the minorities, says most of their representatives. Top that with language barriers, and you have a really complicated scenario right there. Many mentioned how they were directed from counter to counter at healthcare service providers’ offices on account of their ethnic identity, while a few say they were exasperated from the long-winded process of accessing something as basic as healthcare.
Service user’s problems in mental healthcare
You would think since community service users are eligible to receive support and medical attention from the state, they would be better off, right? The real picture is far from the one in your head. There’s hardly any therapeutic environment left for them to discuss their mental health issues like dementia. Most BAME individuals have a traditional ‘familism’ outlook towards the treatment of dementia, which makes it harder for them to realise when it is time to opt for medical services.
A senior custom assignment expert from MyAssignmenthelp recounts his experience with accessing support from the state while battling depression, and shares how doctors and caregivers tried to belittle or ridicule him because of his ethnic identity. Such deep-rooted prejudice still stands in the way of mental health issues and keep coming to the fore for the BAME community.
All-around community-related issues
Voluntary mental health support groups have been quite helpful for the BAME community. However, they want the roles of support group members to be fortified, for there are more than 25,000 people with dementia in the UK currently. With a better representation of their community, they believe it can bring about a holistic approach to the entire situation where they will not have to shy away about speaking openly about their mental illnesses.
With support groups struggling hard to survive in an increasingly competitive market and continuing budget cuts post-Brexit (especially in the UK), it is becoming increasingly difficult for the BAME community to access healthcare services for their mental illnesses. They also opened up about the need for faith leaders to unite over the issue in their communities and take them seriously when they express their problems.
Wrapping it up,
The personal and social factors including stigma and inability to identify mental health issues like dementia are just the tip of the iceberg. Obstacles for the BAME community while accessing healthcare has direct links to the social networks, awareness education, state policies and cultural naivety, to name a few. The numbers indicate that people from the BAME community not only suffer from more mental health diseases, but also face severe hindrances when they opt for proper medical assistance.
This situation can be combated only by raising awareness about the community, and extending to include the medical practitioners and caregivers. Maybe it is time that social media activists from all over the world took note of this fact and stirred things up for the policies to change worldwide. Here’s hoping for a more inclusive world for the generations to come.
References and Further Reading
About the author
Shirley Brown is a custom assignment writer at EssayAssignmenthelp She offers unmatched academic assistance for students who face academic troubles. Apart from being a renowned student counsellor in Melbourne, she also enjoys writing blogs about education and healthcare.