Addressing the racist disparity in mental health care, the organisation pays for sessions with Black counsellors – and we can all get involved with supporting the cause
Across the world, we’re finally beginning to face the implications and realities of generations of racial discrimination. And while there’s a lot of hope to be found in the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, it has also been a deeply painful and triggering time.
With that in mind, now is an important time to acknowledge the disparity in the number of of Black people who experience mental health struggles compared to their white counterparts – be that due to racism and discrimination, social and economic inequalities, stigma, or the criminal justice system – with a 2018 report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists recognising racial discrimination in the UK healthcare system, which has led to a reduced level of access to psychiatric care.
In the UK, Black men are six times more likely than white men to be sectioned or an in-patient at a mental health hospital, and – according to a Gov UK survey – 29% of Black women had experienced a common mental disorder in the past week, a higher rate than any other ethnic group. In addition, a 2014 survey found that while Black adults are more likely to experience severe mental illness, they are least likely to receive any mental health care – and, when they did it, was disproportionately based on a detention order.
These are hard, disapointing facts to face, but it’s vital that we take the time to understand the weight of the mental health challenges faced by Black people in the UK. And Black Minds Matter is the new initiative that’s asking people to come together to help fill the gap in mental health care.
While Black adults are more likely to experience severe mental illness, they are least likely to receive any mental health care
Created 1 June 2020, Black Minds Matter is raising money to pay for counselling sessions for Black people, with Black counsellors. Service users can browse through the selection of counsellors on the site and book a session – the fee is taken care of by the organisation, using funds raised by generous donors.
So far, the donations have helped fund more than 500 12-week counselling courses, and that number is only on the rise – with the current figure on Go Fund Me sitting at more than £438,000 – already higher than the £400,000 target.
“We understand more than ever the effects of racial discrimination across this country, for many Black people the cases of violence against individuals such as George Floyd in the USA and the many historic incidents in the UK are deeply triggering,” the organisation writes. “Treating mental health must be a priority in the fight for equality and the welfare of black people in the UK.”
Speaking of the work that Black Minds Matter is doing, counsellor Joshua MacNab – whose services are listed on the site – says:
“Firstly, I have to credit to founders Agnes and Annie for this incredible effort. It really is fantastic and selfless. It can be expensive to access quality therapym or you wait a long time to access therapy through the NHS and even then they are limited to the types of therapy on offer. Black communities are least likely to access services for therapy but most likely to be sectioned, there is quite the incongruence there.
“People may feel more comfortable talking about being Black in today’s society with a Black therapist – this the choice that is now being offered. Society still has a lot of maturing to do in terms of conversation and empathy in and around Black history that still pervades society and impacts Black people on a daily basis – through overt racism or micro-aggressions, it’s a constant battle and the impact on mental health can be damaging.”
Joshua’s passion for the cause is palpable, and it’s no surprise to learn that he didn’t hesitate to join the team when he was invited.
“At the time I was asked, I was feeling drained from reading the news,” he reflects. “I hope black communities feel empowered to come to therapy. People who may have wanted to reach out before but felt they couldn’t. People who felt their experience of being black hasn’t been seen or understood or empathised with. Annie and Agnes have shown you can make a difference, they are inspirational and the energy around this movement is truly inspiring.”
The Black Minds Matter team are yet more proof of the power of individuals. And their vision is already coming to light.
“I am so glad you exist. The work you are doing is needed. I have struggled to get therapy for two years and nearly gave up. The cost of therapy and therapists not understanding my struggles are the two things that put me off,” writes one service user.
During a hugely emotionally taxing and traumatising time, when the NHS is overwhelmed and mental health care is inaccessible, Black Minds Matter is making wellbeing a priority, opening up the gates to mental health care, and putting the spotlight on the racial disparity in care that has, for too long, gone unaddressed.
“This is a state of emergency for black people’s wellbeing and we need your support to help us bridge the gap so that access can become available,” they write. “This is no small feat and we need you to make this happen. Black Lives Matter. Black Minds Matter.”