BAME Mental health: The need for culturally tailored early intervention to tackle BAME mental health in schools?

BAME Mental health: The need for culturally tailored early intervention to tackle BAME mental health in schools?

Guest Post By Asha Iqbal- Twitter handle: @_socialdrone

I was 10 years old when I first started suffering from depression and anxiety attacks, which eventually led to self harming at the age of 15 but yet I had no access to any mental health service or treatment during my time in school. After suffering years of abuse that left me with numb and isolated to how I was feeling during my teenage years, I now reflect back at a time where early intervention could have made that crucial difference to wanting to flourish and think about my future career rather than dreading going home to my abusive household.

My past is what led me to drive my passion in mental health campaigning and establishing tailor made mental health workshops that tackle BME and cultural stigmas in mental health but it also led me to question why there was so much lack of importance of intervention in educational facilities and workplaces where everyone spends a lot of time in apart from their homes. These are places where intervention could take place and the benefit to intervention would be improved mental health therefore creating a happier more stable workforce/educational environment.

There is also a need for age appropriate and culturally sensitive service within organisations to tackle mental health when it comes to black and minority ethnic communities. I faced cultural barriers when I grew up as the community didn’t talk about mental health they were self diagnosing someone who had severe mental health problems and saying it was a cause from black magic. There were so many stigmas attached to mental health stemmed from decades ago when there was lack of knowledge about the subject and there still is stigmas attached but we are slowly breaking down barriers as long as we are consistent and keep it on the agenda. What I found was the best way of tackling this was having someone who had ‘lived in experience’ so people can relate to! This is what captured others when I spoke openly about my past and breaks down so many barriers.

Research shows that BME mental health needs improving not only by services but also by communities and with a high concentration currently on trying to impactful work amongst these communities. It is so important to recognise each culture and their specific needs to break down the barriers of improving mental health and also identifies the specific services or intervention that best applies to help and supporting their needs. When you look at just some of the research conducted on BME mental health the statistics can be alarming when it comes to the differences but also the fact that a lot of individuals don’t seek treatment.

On self harming alone South Asian women between the ages of 16-24 years old are more likely to self harm than white women but also young black women between the ages of 16-34 years old were more likely to self harm than South Asian women.

These are just some of the barriers highlighted by schools in supporting mental health within the facilities:

  • Lack of funding for adequate provision within the school.
  • Lack of staff time and capacity to create a culture and ethos that supports mental health.
  • Long waiting lists and high thresholds to access specialist services.
  • Insufficient partnership working between schools and specialist mental health services.

One of the most cost effective solutions for a school would be to have a mental health support lead within a school that tackles stigmas, leads workshops for open conversations and has formed relationships with other specialised organisations/services where they can refer pupils too if they require treatment!. Having someone that provides support can help build relationships rather than have someone on base that can do all the mental health treatments. One of the biggest problems I saw from the research I looked at was the lack of promoting positive mental health and lack of getting rid of stigma which can be the root cause.

Statistics from the Department of Education show that the most common types of support offered for pupils who had been identified as someone with mental health needs were educational psychological support (61%) and counselling services (61%). More clinical forms of support, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) (18%) and clinical psychological support (14%) were much less common place institutions used a range of specific sessions, activities and programme to promote positive mental health and wellbeing among their pupils. These included skills development sessions like sessions to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, also specific issues such as body image or self-harm and sessions to promote positive mental health among all pupils.

What great practices does your school/college/workplace provide for BME mental health and just culturally aware services?

Please be aware that the article above has used research from below research findings.

*Research from Paula Lavis on behalf of the children and young people’s coalition, ‘The importance of promoting mental health in children and young people from black and minority ethnicities communities’

**Research from the Department of Education ‘Supporting mental health in schools and colleges’

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