Led by service users, for service users: how mental health services can improve in East London

Specialist and patient at a Talking therapy meeting

Service users could help improve mental health services in London by filling in a questionairre. - Credit: Archant

COVID-19 has hit east London hard - with Hackney bearing the brunt of excess fatalities and cases.

But across the country and around the world, the pandemic’s wounds on mental health continue to fester, something acknowledged by Hackney’s health chief, Cllr Chris Kennedy.

After so many of us have lost loved ones to a virus that disproportionately impacts ethnic minorities, it’s more important than ever to address existing inequalities in mental health care.

Coronavirus may have brought them to the fore, but they’ve always been there.

Take it from me - a Bengali Muslim woman, told I have to wait longer if I want a female therapist or psychiatrist.

Mina Hadi.

Mina Hadi is one of two BAME Experts by Experience leading the PCREF (Patient & Carer Race Equality Framework) project in East London. - Credit: Mina Hadi

When I hit gold in finding a culturally competent therapist of a similar demographic to me, I was disheartened to find that the current system prevented me from sticking with her the next time I self-referred.

More broadly, language barriers, social stigma and lack of Internet access all prevent people of colour from seeking the mental health treatment they may need.

Communities of colour are often labelled as “hard-to-reach”, but this does a disservice to the various grassroots organisations that have relied on funding and have had to close due to the lack of it.

It also fails to take into account the most marginalised groups - refugees, asylum seekers, the homeless and the LGBTQ community.

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Where they intersect with race and other factors, these people become more likely to fall through the cracks of the system.

We want to change that.

The questionnaire is open to anyone working and/or living in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham. Your race doesn’t matter. Neither does your age, or if you’ve ever accessed mental health services.

With your help, we can take a good look at the shortcomings of mental health care as it currently stands, and ensure service users are involved in improving services for people of all races.

Mina Hadi is one of two BAME Experts by Experience leading the PCREF (Patient & Carer Race Equality Framework) project in East London. The first stage is a questionnaire aiming to make mental health care more racially sensitive. Mina shares more below.

Can you spare fifteen minutes to help us out with your feedback? Follow this link to get started. You can find more information here.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at elft.elft_pcref@nhs.net - we are happy to help with paper copies, accessible versions and more.