Ask the experts: How can we promote equality in mental health?

The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘make mental health and well-being for all a global priority’. Discussing the theme that will be explored on 10 October, the World Health Organization says, “Stigma and discrimination continue to be a barrier to social inclusion and access to the right care; importantly, we can all play our part in increasing awareness about which preventive mental health interventions work and World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to do that collectively.” 

To learn more about how we can reduce discrimination and promote equality, we asked counselling therapist Lorraine Ballintine some pressing questions.

How can we promote equality in mental health?

What are some of the key issues driving inequality when it comes to mental health?

The lack of awareness, dismissal and underplaying of racism, and how it affects marginalised people and their mental health continues to plague our society on multiple levels. Experts advise that mental ill-health has little to do with genetic predisposition but rather is to do with adverse social circumstances, including racism and hardship.

Denial supports a disparity that is driven by the view there is no issue to be addressed. This is why marginalised groups can sometimes struggle to access treatment and mental health support as it causes an air of distrust leading to delays in treatment and support. Black people are 1.3 times more likely than White British people to be receiving mental health care. I am sure there will be those that disagree, however, there is plenty of evidence out there to support this. 

What do you believe needs to happen to make a change?

We all need to increase our awareness of how racism affects people from marginalised backgrounds to address racial disparities in the access, treatment and support of mental health. Race and discrimination as a compulsory module in mental health training could begin the learning and understanding process. Attending a two-hour unconscious bias training course ​​– however fleetingly useful – just won’t cut it.

Continual open, honest and transparent conversations regarding discrimination should be a priority for all working in mental health. The world of intersectionality is complex and ever-changing – without continual conversations and meetings of minds, our learning and ability to create change can become static and out of touch.

How can we (on an individual level) support and promote change to make mental health a priority for all?

As mentioned previously, the research is out there with plenty of knowledgeable individuals, experts, and organisations doing the groundwork with regard to diversity, equality and inclusion. This is more than just an area of interest if we speak in terms of our society ​​– it is our individual responsibility to ensure we continually refresh our understanding of society’s ever-changing landscape to best support well-being for all.

Lorraine’s top tips for engaging in community care:

  1. If you’re a therapist, join a mental health group/organisation aimed at people of colour who have ally membership, the BAATN is one of them (The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network).
  2. Get to know communities outside of your own by attending different events. I on occasion push my boundaries by attending sports, arts and well-being events held outside my immediate community. It’s fun and a great way to network.
  3. Voluntary work is a good way to engage in community care and can be as simple as becoming a member of a forum or focus group with minimal commitment but access to a wealth of learning and understanding.

This article was originally published in Happiful Magazine (Issue 66 2022). You can order print copies online, or read the e-magazine for free on the Happiful app

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Written by Kat Nicholls
Kat is a Content Producer for Memiah and writer for Counselling Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Kat Nicholls
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