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In England and UK, nearly a fifth of people come from a BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) background.

The mental health of BAME communities is important because people from these communities often face individual and societal challenges that can affect access to healthcare and overall mental and physical health.

It is important to note that BAME is a term that covers a wide range of people with a diverse range of needs. Different ethnic groups have different experiences of mental health problems that reflect their culture and context.

Data collected on mental health in minority ethnic groups can often be subject to small sample sizes, meaning our ability to look at mental health within a specific ethnic group is sometimes limited.

For instance, there may be a small number of people from a certain ethnicity group taking part in a research survey. This means that there is much more we still need to know about ethnicity and mental health in the UK.

Important influences on BAME communities’ mental health

1.         Racism and discrimination

2.         Social and economic inequalities

3.         Mental health stigma

4.         Criminal justice system

5.         Other factors


1. Racism and discrimination

People from BAME communities can experience racism in their personal lives, ranging from casual slights to explicit hurtful comments and verbal or physical aggression.

Research suggests that experiencing racism can be stressful and have a negative effect on overall health and mental health.

There is a growing body of research to suggest that those exposed to racism may be more likely to experience mental health problems such as psychosis and depression.

2. Social and Economic Inequalities

BAME communities are also often faced with disadvantages in society.  They are more likely to experience poverty, have poorer educational outcomes, higher unemployment, and contact with the criminal justice system, and may face challenges accessing or receiving appropriate professional services.

For example:

Among 16-to-24-year olds, unemployment rates are highest for people from a Black background (26%) and from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background (23%) in comparison with their White counterparts (11%).

Even when employed, men and women from some ethnic groups are paid less on average than those from other groups with similar qualifications and experience.

Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities consistently have high rates of poverty, as do Black, Chinese and Other ethnic communities.

Homelessness is a key issue among minority ethnic groups, with 37% of statutory homeless households from a ‘BME background’ in 2013.

Each of these can act as risk factors for the development of mental health problems.


3. Mental health stigma

Different communities understand and talk about mental health in different ways.

In some communities, mental health problems are rarely spoken about and can be seen in a negative light. This can discourage people within the community from talking about their mental health and may be a barrier to engagement with health services.


4. Criminal justice system

There is growing concern over unmet mental health needs among BAME individuals within the criminal justice system, particularly in the youth justice system.

One 2016 report on the youth justice system in England and UK found over 40% of children are from BAME backgrounds, and more than one third have a diagnosed mental health problem.


5. Other factors

Many groups face inequalities in physical and mental health. This can be due to factors like disability, sexuality, gender, and age. In order to understand different BAME communities’ experiences of mental health problems and of services provided it is also necessary to consider these other aspects in addition to race and ethnicity.



Different BAME groups and particular mental health concerns

Different BAME groups may be more likely to face mental health concerns.  It is important to note, however, that our understanding of these mental health concerns is limited by the quality of the data collected.

Black / African / Caribbean / Black British people

The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) found that Black men were more likely than their White counterparts to experience a psychotic disorder in the last year.

Risk of psychosis in Black Caribbean groups is estimated to be nearly seven times higher than in the White population.

The impact of the higher rates of mental illness is that people from these groups are more likely than average to encounter mental health services.

Detention rates under the Mental Health Act during 2017/18 were four times higher for people in the ‘Black’ or ‘Black British’ group than those in the ‘White’ group.

The Count Me in Census, which collects information on inpatient care, found higher than average admission and detention rates for Black groups in every year since 2006 to 2010.

Black men were reported to have the highest rates of drug use and drug dependency than other groups.

Whilst the White Caucasian population experienced the highest rates for suicidal thoughts, suicide rates are higher among young men of Black African, Black Caribbean origin, and among middle aged Black African, Black Caribbean and South Asian women than among their White British counterparts.

Chinese people are underrepresented in mental health services, rates of admission to mental health inpatient facilities in England and UK were lower among the Chinese population compared to the national average. Further research is required to explore whether this is because the community experiences better mental health than the general population or if they experience specific barriers to accessing mental health services.

It is important to note that these findings may not be reflective of true prevalence of mental health problems among Asian communities in the UK as the reasons explored above may mean that people in these communities are less likely to report that they are experiencing mental health problems.



Refugees and asylum seekers

Refugees and asylum seekers may experience exclusion, marginalisation, and inequalities of access to services.

They are more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population, including higher rates of depression, PTSD, and other anxiety disorders.

The increased vulnerability to mental health problems that refugees, and asylum seekers face is linked to pre-migration experiences (such as war trauma) and post-migration conditions (such as separation from family, difficulties with asylum procedures and poor housing).

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