Culture specific mental health treatment crucial

More black people on beds than white counterparts

It’s no secret that people of colour face a number of obstacles in receiving help for mental health issues.

There is a serious problem within mental health services and a lack of knowledge of different cultures. This lack of knowledge can often lead to inaccurate diagnosis and unsuitable treatment.

TNT paid a visit to Manchester’s African Caribbean Mental Health Services (ACMHS). We found out what they thought the issues were and how improvement can be made. The service responds to a need for more holistic care for people of African Caribbean descent in the local community.

Jeanette Stanley (Director of ACMHS) spoke of some of the issues that sparked the service to be established. “Too often Black men were being seen as ‘big, black and dangerous’ and so would be put on high medication. It was medication that they didn’t need to be on, used to calm them down”.

This type of stereotyping leads to people receiving treatment that is not catered to their needs.

Dominic Pinnock (ACMHS Projects and Funding Coordinator) told TNT about his hospital visits. “It isn’t right because black people are about 4% of the population. Yet I see about 6 out of 8 beds on a ward filled by black people”.

Jeanette spoke proudly of the services that the group offer, particularly their music drop-in service. She said that “music seems to solve everything” with many of their service users. The sessions have proved to be very therapeutic and are making a real difference to a lot of people’s lives.

Cultural-appropriate services needed

Something so simple has had a huge effect on people’s mental health conditions. This method has worked for them much more than the methods that they have previously been directed to These alternative methods include medication or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Adding to this, Jeanette explained how their service users have often struggled for a long time before coming to them. They have often got nowhere with endless techniques that other services have suggested to them. She said, “They come to us and they say, ‘finally someone understands’”.

This is due to the ACMHS running a culturally appropriate service. This cultural understanding something that is sadly often missing from other mental health services.

The service has now broadened, not only caring for African Caribbean people, but also other ethnic minorities. These include Eastern Europeans, who need someone to sit and understand their cases.

The ACMHS are crucial for the needs of African Caribbean people and other ethnic minority groups in the community. Without this service in Manchester, local people would otherwise continue to receive inappropriate mental healthcare. Jeanette believes that what needs to change is that services need to become more person-centred.

Mental health services have to provide needs-led care, with a deeper understanding of different cultures.

TNT News Natasha Dunn

Photo Credit: EvoSoft

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