Around 50 people held a lively discussion on how mental health services should change to meet the needs of people from BME backgrounds, at our latest Mental Health Matters event.
Our guest speaker, the campaigner and social commentator Patrick Vernon OBE, spoke about how important it was for health service providers to recognise, and address, the reasons why the there is a greater proportion of people from BME backgrounds with mental health issues.
He said: “Racism has an impact on wellbeing. This is important – people who come here for services have different narratives that need to be considered.”
Patrick, a former Non-Executive Director at C&I, campaigned for justice for the Windrush victims when the scandal hit headlines last year.
He spoke about its impact: “Windrush has raised awareness, not just of racism, but also of issues of identity; of who is British and who is not. There is now greater recognition of micro-aggressions, the day to day racism that people encounter such as being asked where they are from, when they were born here and have lived here all their life.”
Patrick suggested that greater co-production with service users was important and would help the Trust understand the needs and experience of the black community, and he praised the work of Clover Crumbie and the Nubian Users Forum.
Patrick spoke about how different art forms can be used to express the experience of people from BME backgrounds, helping to educate and break down barriers.
Trust Chair, Leisha Fullick, agreed and said the Trust was working with black service users to help understand their needs.
Patrick also said health services need to be developing talented black clinicians; that they need to recognise Community Trauma and the damage it causes; and that a transformational change was needed across the system.
Farah Choudhary, PICT Lead Psychologist at the Trust, said: “It is very difficult for us in the NHS with very tight budgets. There needs to be a structure in place, so that we can manage this locally.”
Patrick responded saying that the organisation needs to have people who could manage the system, while allowing there to be space for creativity.
Public governor, Adeola Akande, said there was a lot to learn from private companies, who have invested in programmes to improve diversity because they had discovered that it helped their businesses succeed.
Non-Executive Director, Dal Babu, said that more needs to be done to support BME staff in the Trust, and referred to what he learnt from his experience in the Metropolitan Police when he was borough commander in Harrow.
The event was hosted by our Medical Director, Dr Vincent Kirchner, who said he recognised many of the issues that had been raised, and said that the Trust was working to address them.
He said: “Sometimes the problem seems so huge, it would be easy to just think we cannot solve it. But as a Trust we want to take steps and we want everyone to work with us.”
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C&I has moved the service we normally offer in emergency departments to our 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Assessment Service, at St Pancras Hospital. The service will see people in need of urgent care so that they do not have to go to a hospital emergency department unless they have an urgent medical need. Emergency departments are under unprecedented pressure due to COVID-19 – the illness caused by coronavirus. We are urging people in mental health crisis to telephone our 24/7 crisis line on 020 3317 6333 or contact their usual community mental health team. If service users attend the 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Assessment Service in person we will see you but we urge you to contact the crisis line in advance for advice to ensure you are only leaving home when absolutely necessary.