The House

Government must take mental health seriously

- Matthe Kayanja Apprentice journalist at The Times

My race and my mental health are similar in that I only became aware of them, painfully, as I entered early adulthood. Young Black people have the double burden of working out what it means to be an adult and what it means to be Black; a twisting journey that can cause confusion, anxiety and pain, but also self-knowledge and contentmen­t if navigated well.

Mental health support from Black profession­als who have been on the same journey and can empathise is therefore crucial, however 2013 NHS research found that only 9.6 per cent of quali ed clinical psychologi­sts in England and Wales were Black, Asian and minority ethnic, despite forming 13 per cent of the population. is is despite a 2016 NHS study also nding Black people were most likely to su er mental health problems, with 23 per cent having a common mental health problem in a given week compared to 17 per cent of whites.

It can be harder for young Black Brits to open up to someone who we think will not get what we mean. is is likely a factor in Black people having the lowest incidence of mental health treatment – at 6.5 per cent compared to 14.5 per cent of whites, according to the same NHS study.

Outside help is important, because family is sometimes di cult to consult when burdened with generation­al trauma, emphasisin­g grit over vulnerabil­ity, borne out of an even more hostile past.

e government can take action in two ways. Firstly, it needs to fund charities that are already working to solve this problem, such as Black Minds Ma er, which connects Black patients and therapists for free sessions, and grassroots organisati­ons like Engage in ME, a BAME peer-to-peer support group in Lewisham set up last year by mental health charity Mind.

Secondly, they need to ensure NHS mental health facilities, already severely stretched, are adequately funded and encouraged to train and recruit Black sta .

While addressing the root causes of the mental health issues young Black people face – from systemic racism to microaggre­ssions – is crucial, the government should also make sure we have someone to turn to in the meantime.

“Family is sometimes di cult to consult when burdened with generation­al trauma, emphasisin­g grit over vulnerabil­ity”

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