Living with a mental health (MH) condition within the Black and Minority Ethnic community (BME) equates to being convicted of rape or murder. You are labelled, shamed, judged and considered an outcast although, raping/murdering is a choice and a mental health diagnoses is not. You do not choose to live with a mental health condition. It is hereditary or can be developed based on circumstances a person encounters in their lifetime.
If estimates suggests by 2050 BME groups will make up a third of Britain’s population (J. Chapman. Daily Mail. 2013), and Mind (2012) stated that, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year, this concludes that the diagnoses of a mental health condition is and will be a fast growing concern within BME communities.
When the word “mental health” is mentioned in our communities, it is assumed that a person is mad, crazy, or abnormal. Often, we assume the worst possible case scenario and categorise MH in its highest degree, schizophrenia. The terms “mental health” and “mental illness” are typically used interchangeably but do not mean the same thing. A person’s mental health just like the physical health needs to be maintained in order to prevent it from developing into a mental illness.
In 2012, Human Rights Watch reported that, it was widely believed that MH is caused by demonic spirits in an African country. The report stated that, although over 2million people living in the country are suffering from mental illnesses, there were only 3 mental health hospitals available to support individuals in this country. Although the hospitals jointly treated approximately 950 patients to its maximum capacity, one of the hospitals was “overcrowded, with numbers ranging from 900-1200 at any given period between 2010 and 2012” The article further stated that other treatments for MH illnesses in this country included prayer camps – where victims were chained to trees and tortured with strong believes that the demon can be beaten out of them.
Although this belief reported (MH is caused by demonic spirits) is from a country outside of the united kingdom, it has to be acknowledged that, most African countries share similar beliefs. Individuals who have now migrated to the United Kingdom from BME groups are from countries who share and exercise such believes therefore, suggesting that this belief is still prevalent within the United Kingdom.
Within the UK it was reported that individuals from BME groups living in the UK are: “more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems” and “more likely to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital” (Mental Health Foundation. 2015). Despite, such findings we do not allow ourselves to be educated about such topics or allow a change in our mind-sets about the issue.
Time to change (2014) reported that 93% of people living with MH conditions from BME experience discrimination and 80% feel they are unable to talk about their experience. Discrimination, stereotypes, stigmas and historic beliefs stop people from sharing their experiences. Subsequently people’s experiences need to be shared to educate us about mental health illnesses within our communities.
Living with a MH conditions is common and most people in our communities are suffering from it in silence due to stereotypes and religious beliefs associated to it. If we do no start speaking up about it or start educating ourselves about it, such sadistic ideologies about it will never fade. Victims will continuously be silenced, tortured, abused and sadly left untreated due to the fear of social exclusion.
References and Further Reading
- Rehab 4 Alcoholism is a free and impartial helpline for people troubled with drug and alcohol issues. Rehab 4 Alcoholism aims to save lives by stopping addiction before it becomes too late.