Factsheet: Black & Minority Ethnic Groups and Mental Health

This factsheet is available in a downloadable PDF here. 

Table of Contents

Suggested Further Reading


Studies have shown that people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities suffer from inequalities in access to mental health services; and experiences indicate that BME patients are significantly more likely to be detained compulsorily. Barriers to accessing mental health services by BME people  are language, stigma, lack of understanding of different understandings of mental illness, cultural insensitivity and direct or indirect racism

In view of this, many BME people do not use mental health services but are supported through illness by their extended family members. See Department of Health website

There are however  some local voluntary organizations such as Men in Mind, Saheliya etc, which aim at providing, promoting and developing mental health support services to local BME communities. The supports offered are meant to help BME people to manage and address mental distress, deal with social and cultural stresses contributing to mental illness, and explore how such approaches could be used in a holistic and culturally sensitive ways to manage mental health problems.

Information on mental health support for BME people can be found in English and in most of the following languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, Arabic, French, Polish and other Eastern European languages at mind

BME people in Midlothian and Scotland include persons with Asian and African-Caribbean origins; and also those of Irish or Mediterranean origin and East European migrants.

Treatment statistics in Lothian indicate that people of Chinese, Pakistani and Bangladeshi, Indian, African-Caribbean background as well as Refugees /Asylum seekers often experience mental health problems. 

One of the most vulnerable group is Refugees /Asylum seekers.  

Munday & Oswald (2000) give the reason for this phenomenon:

The trauma of having to leave one’s homeland, the insecurity of one’s status in the UK, the constant worrying about relatives and friends left behind, survivors guilt, PTSD, the experience of war, rape, torture are well documented triggers for the development of mental health problems’

Study report by Chahal and Julienne (1999) identified racism, discrimination, victimisation and violence as risk factors for developing mental health difficulties among BME people. The report further explained that:

‘Being made to feel different in a variety of social situations and locations was largely seen as routine, and in some instances expected.’ 

Other potential identified mental health problems risk factors among BME people are high rate of unemployment, low level of economic activity, high level of self employment and segregated employment among them (2001 census).  

Suggested Further Reading

  • ‘Silence of the Lads’, Men In Mind (1999)
  • ‘Mental Health in a Multi-Ethnic Society’, S.Fernando (1995)
  • ‘Intercultural Therapy’, Kareem and Littlewood (1992)

Related Services

Below are links to Services in the Edspace database that may be of interest:

External websites related to Black & Minority Ethnic Groups and Mental Health

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