Coalition urges positive change through new Black Mental Health Manifesto

Concrete action is needed to improve mental healthcare for black communities otherwise generations will keep being “held back from achieving their full potential”, a new coalition has warned.

The group said it is calling for “positive change” to alter a system within which it said black people are being failed when they at their most vulnerable.

The coalition – which includes the Black Minds Matter charity, the Centre for Mental Health and Mind as well as smaller grass-roots organisations – has launched what it called the Black Mental Health Manifesto.

It said poverty and inequality are contributing to poorer mental health outcomes and that, due to both historical and current injustices, “these social determinants disproportionately affect black communities”.

Issues such as housing insecurity, unemployment and school exclusions “significantly contribute and at times are the cause of mental ill health”, the group said.

It stated: “It must be accepted that racism and discrimination are often at the heart of why black people face inequities and there are growing calls for racism to be regarded as a structural and social determinant of health, including mental ill health.”

The coalition expressed disappointment that the Mental Health Bill was not included in the King’s Speech last year, and called on political parties to “include such legislation in future manifestos and plans”, including improved provisions support for black autistic people and
those with learning disabilities.

Other recommendations include a call for a “comprehensive strategy to eradicate racism from society” and the appointment of a Cabinet minister specifically to oversee such a strategy.

It added: “The appointed minister must have a remit across government departments including DHSC to ensure anti-racism across all governments including health and social care.”

The coalition also called on policymakers, academic institutions, and funders to “actively invest in and engage with community research conducted by and for black communities in a meaningful way”.

Nisa Chisipochinyi, on behalf of the coalition, said: “For too long, black people have been expected to take responsibility for higher rates of poor mental health within communities, ignoring the real driving forces of racism and inequality.

“And when a black person does struggle with their mental health, they often have no choice but to turn to mental health services ill-suited to their needs.

“Meanwhile black-led community organisations, which often possess the solutions for improving mental health and preventing people from falling into crisis, struggle with funding and resources.

“There have been plenty of words and promises, but failure to take decisive steps such as reforming the Mental Health Act signal that the mental health of black people still isn’t a priority.

“Without concrete action to improve black mental health and a clear plan to eradicate racism, successive generations of black families will continue to be held back from achieving their full potential.

“Unlocking this potential is not only just but will also ease pressure on mental health services and boost the success of our society as a whole.

“Positive change isn’t out of reach, and this Black-led manifesto, which centres the voices of grassroots organisations and the communities they serve, provides a clear map of the changes which are urgently needed.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Everyone should have access to the care they need, which is why we’ve increased spending on mental health by more than £4.7 billion in cash terms since 2018.

“We are committed to reforming the Mental Health Act when parliamentary time allows to address racial disparities in mental health detentions, and we are also piloting advocacy services to support people in better understanding their rights under the Act.”

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