Improving the mental health of staff and patients from ethnic minorities

On 8th October 2021
Categories: 2021

Existing inequalities have made the mental health of people from ethnic minorities worse during the pandemic. That’s why we’ve invested in a vital project by Sussex mental health charity, Heads On, to improve mental health services for both staff and service users from these communities.

Thanks to kind donations to NHS Charities Together we have awarded £50,000 to Heads On, working with their parent trust Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, to be able to tackle this worsening issue. The project has been split into two essential strands of work; one focusing on Trust staff and the workplace, and the other on ethnic minority service users and their families and carers.

The effect of the pandemic on ethnic minorities

Existing disparities in housing, employment and finances have a greater impact on the mental health of people from ethnic minorities, with the effects of Covid-19 only exacerbating these issues. In addition to this, statistics provided by Heads On reveal that people with severe mental illness also face considerable health inequalities, with a life expectancy of around 20 years less than the general population. It sadly comes as no surprise that patients from ethnic minorities can face more severe health outcomes, for example having higher rates of PTSD and suicide risk and are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Tackling race inequality in mental healthcare

In response to this crisis Heads On has developed a crucial programme of work over the last year to address race inequality in mental health services. This work includes ‘Diversity In Action’ staff training and development, to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace. ‘Cultural Intelligence’ training that will develop understanding and awareness of different cultures. ‘Allyship’ development to foster not only a diverse, but a truly inclusive workplace. And ‘Reciprocal Mentoring for Inclusion’ that sees senior NHS executives mentored by ethnic minority staff members to deliver cultural shifts at board level.

Additional research into how people from ethnic minorities experience mental health services compared to their white British counterparts will also be carried out. This work will be fundamental to building a clearer picture of the differences in health outcomes for people and identifying areas to focus future research and interventions. This will include ‘Public and Patient’ involvement workshops to hear directly from ethnic minority patients, families and carers. The results of the research are expected in Summer 2022.

Rachael Duke, Head of Charity at Heads On, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust Charity, said:

“We are hugely grateful to NHS Charities Together for their support of our work on race equality. Covid has shone a spotlight on the health inequalities that people with mental health problems have faced for far too long and by acting now we hope to make a real contribution to building a more equal world for NHS staff, patients and carers.”

Anna-Marie Jones, Research & Development Improvement Manager, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“I feel really privileged to be working with this group and helping them through a co-production process to get this important project off the ground. There have been lots of creative ideas and we are excited to be starting to recruit at the end of September. We are really appreciative of the funding we’ve received as we can now ensure that the voices from our ethnic minority service users can be heard and, importantly, we can pay for their time.”

The ongoing need for support

This project is just one of a number of projects we have invested in to support those disproportionately affected by the pandemic including patients and staff from ethnic minorities and high-risk groups like those living with disabilities, deprivation or social isolation.

Please, keep showing you care and help us build a healthier and fairer nation with the best NHS care available to everyone – now and in the future.

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