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Taking action to improve mental health services for BME communities

More will be done to publicise the wide range of help and support available to black and minority ethnic people with mental health difficulties after a specially-commissioned survey showed that some communities in Suffolk were not aware of the services on offer.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has made the pledge after commissioning Healthwatch Suffolk to carry out an extensive survey to find out more about the experience BME communities have when using mental health services.

As well as better publicity, NSFT will carry out more training with staff to ensure services are culturally sensitive while continuing to run events to promote mental wellbeing, as well as organising seminars to promote mental health to faith leaders.

The commitment comes following the Healthwatch survey, which was commissioned as part of an ongoing project, called Open Mind, which aims to improve mental health for BME communities, as well as their access to services. Nearly 775 people were asked for their views, while a series of focus groups also took place so that people could describe their experiences in more detail.

The results showed:

  • The majority of people (90% of Chinese respondents, 33% of white British and 20% of black or black British Caribbean respondents) find mental health difficult to talk about

  • 75% of black British respondents can talk to family and friends about their mental health issues, but 60% of Bangladeshi respondents could not, indicating there are some wide cultural differences

  • Faith and belief is important for 40% of white respondents when thinking about their mental wellbeing. This rises to 80 – 100% for most BME respondents

  • Only 10% of white British people would approach their faith leader to discuss their mental health problems

  • 100% of Asian British and Bangladeshi respondents aged 35 and over would approach their faith leader to discuss their mental health problems

  • 90% of BME people said it was not easy to find information about mental health services

  • 87% of BME service users said that staff were ‘very helpful’, compared to 62% of white British respondents

  • Almost half of BME services users said that mental health services were not culturally sensitive, with one in four saying that they were asked questions that were not acceptable to their culture or faith

Ravi Seenan, Equalities and Engagement Manager with NSFT, said: “We were delighted to be able to work with Healthwatch Suffolk and our communities to look at how to improve on the way we deliver our services and address some of the clear inequalities which exist.

“The survey produced some really interesting results and we have already drawn up some actions to address some of the points which were raised. Key to this work will be increasing people’s awareness of the services we provide so that everyone has the same access to high quality services and the opportunity to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

“We will now share the findings of this survey with our partner organisations including voluntary and statutory groups, staff members and our service users and carers, so that any issues can be addressed and appropriate cultural adaptations made to services.”

Tony Rollo, Chair of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “We have been really pleased with the response received to this survey. The results contain a wealth of data that we hope the Trust will use to improve the experience of all communities accessing mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk.

"I would like to thank everyone who has helped us with this extensive project including the service users and those who took part to share their story with us on video.”