Bromley, Greenwich, Bexley & Lewisham Ethnic Carer Forum November 2021

Welcome to my November update of my ethnic carer forum. I am slowly changing it from BAME to ethnic although most members who have attended over the years are not that fussed with the title, it is the discussion, focus and engagement regarding the challenges many minority ethnic carers face. The forum covers a large area mainly Lewisham, Greenwich, Bromley and Bexley due to my other carer groups in Greenwich and carer forums in Lewisham. The forum seeks engagement from South London & Maudsley NHS trust and Oxleas NHS trust half the time, but the carer group gets education and empowerment from national speakers regarding race, racism, complexities in mental health and so on.

For the November BAME carers forum the following speakers were

  • Brenda Onatade – Her Patient Carer Race Equality involvement and update
  • Samantha Hosten – Importance of Black History month mental health
  • Lauren Obie – Blacks MindS Matter UK
  • Lily and Jemma – Maudsley NHS Patient Research ambassadors

Brenda presents on her involvement regarding anti-racism framework

Brenda is a long standing member of our carer forums, so it is only fair to have members update the group every now and then on what they have been involved in. Brenda felt it was nice to be among fellow ethnic carers and those who have a common cause. Brenda was wondering if there was a list of roles that could be generated so it can give an idea of who is battling for carers and the ‘cared for’ side. Brenda was very interested to hear more about Lauren’s role under the Black Minds Matter UK charity, because she has never heard of them before. Brenda reminded us that she has been supporting members of her family for over 20 years with mental health problems and she has never heard of the charity.

Brenda moved on to talk about her involvement in the Patient & Carer Race Equality Framework (PCREF). Brenda explained that PCREF is a National pilot framework in the mental health system ensuring people from black or ethnic minorities get better health equality as well as the organisation combating racism and stigma. Brenda felt they are in the early stages where there are four pilots being run at the moment, one in South by South London and Maudsley, the other being East London NHS foundation trust, the next being Birmingham and Solihull NHS Mental health trust and the last being Manchester mental health services.

Brenda stated that the most important is that SLaM has decided to incorporate PCREF into their strategy which is being revised now. She hopes that as many people as possible, will join with in getting their voices heard regarding the different engagement meetings being planned. There are partnership groups being developed. There’s a ethnic service user and carer group that is co-chaired by a young woman called Annette Davies and Brenda hopes more people from Lewisham will join.

They are still working on developing definitions and working out how resources will be allocated to build on becoming an anti-racist organisation. Brenda mentioned my newsletter has a section on Race and mental health where she pointed it would be a good reference of the current challenges.

Samantha Hosten Presents on the Importance of Black History month mental health

After some discussions regarding PCREF Samantha Hosten who is the Equality Diversity and Inclusion Manager at NHS England and NHS Improvement was really intrigued by what Brenda had to say. Samantha works for the Northwest region of NHS England which covers Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire, etc, although Samantha formerly worked for the London Leadership Academy. Her background includes working in the NHS local government and In the private sector, and she has been working in inclusion all the way back in 2006 when she was working in local government.

Samantha recently did a conference called breaking down barriers where they identified barriers, that black and ethnic minorities faced within the workplace. Samantha worked widely to support ethnic minority staff, and putting the patient in the system to support their work and career. Samantha is also a life coach and an action learning facilitator. She is really passionate about people’s needs in the NHS and was due to attend my October BAME carer forum due to black history month.

More info about the event can be found at the link below.

Samantha talked more about the conference (which I also attended) and how she really wanted to focus on health inequalities and raise awareness with regards to the health inequalities that black and minority staff, face and where patients also facing in the system. She felt mental health was really important for her to raise during the black history month event.

The event brought up how mental health affects people from being an ethnic minority backgrounds and how it shows that Afro-carribean and black British people in particular have higher rates of mental illness, and therefore more likely to encounter mental health services. The disparity audit found that that women are most likely to experience far more common mental disorders such as anxiety, and depression. while black men have probably experienced psychotic disorders. It shows that black men are 10 times more likely than white men to experience such a disorder, which she found really striking.

Samantha feels although some might feel the awarness is out there, she feels it is not really talked about enough. So for black history month she arranged a whole week around raising awareness of inequalities where the focus was on mental health, she also focused on sickle cell, on disparities in childbirth, and also just normal health and wellbeing for people in ethnic minority backgrounds. Samantha found out that men are more likely to experience psychotic disorders in the last year than white men especially on the impact of how COVID was affecting social economic backgrounds. There was other bad news where it was presented that Black people are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white people. Even when detained there are going to be barriers as in barriers when loved ones were trying to get support from friends or family by talking to them regarding depression, suffering from anxiety and sleepless nights. It just all seems to be put down as a mental illness where minorities end up being put through the system a lot quicker than anybody else. Samantha feels it’s important that people from a minority background, know where to get help, and what is available to support them.

So for Black History Month in 2021, she felt it was the best for her to raise these challenges. The national health team did a lot of conversations with interested parties on what focused needs were. It was really vital that their team raised awareness during Black History Month and it is not just a month, that’s something she said during all of her events. It’s not just one month it is out the year, it is every day, she feels we need to help people that are affected by mental health, people that have illnesses, sickle cell, diabetes who are probably not getting the best care or treatment that they should be getting.

Lily and Gemma presents on service user researcher ambassador project

Lilly and Gemma could not stay long, but promised to be back at a later date. They were working on a project as service user research ambassadors at South London & Maudsley. They were just employed in the last five months, where they will try to ensure that research opportunities are being offered to service users across the trust and that it is relevant to them.

So they are trying to map out the different servers user and carer groups in the trust and it seems a lot are external. They mentioned that some of these groups will cause them to reach different kinds of communities, whether they are in the community, or in the clinical setting or not. Some of the things as researchers they are trying to do is to examine the different barriers from the size of clinicians and barriers regarding size of the service users.

This is because it seems that sometimes clinicians don’t have positive attitudes, when it comes to just research of people who use the mental health services. While from the service users, maybe they do not have an understanding of what research is, which needs to be explained to them, or they have some anxieties, due to poor experiences of services.

So in the end Lilly and Gemma are just trying to grow that research community within the population that SLaM are serving at the moment and are trying to do that in different ways. So some of the projects they have been involved in recently is with recovery college. They are trying to come up with a module, which is about research and address it towards the forensic community, and get them involved to start developing a questionnaire.

Lauren presents Black Minds Matter project

Lauren introduced herself as the Lead referrals officer at a charity called “Black Minds Matter” apologies if you can hear my little sheets. They have only been around since the pandemic.

Lauren showed the carers forum a video of what the charity has been up to. One of the videos I have placed below, which was a World Mental Health Day Fundraising Event & Panel Talk Discussion

Black Minds Matter UK is a fully registered charity operating in the UK; connecting Black individuals and families with free mental health services- by professional Black therapists to support their mental health. Their vision is to make mental health topics more relevant and accessible for all Black people in the U.K., removing the stigma and remodelling the services to be relevant for the Black community.

Lauren continued that they provide people of color free therapy in the UK. So their eligibility criteria is that you are a black or mixed ethnic heritage person. You are a UK based resident, and you’re able to commit to 12 session to online therapy across the UK. Lauren mentioned that there’s a huge gap in terms of black therapists and access to black therapists. And what their organisation does is they have a register of black accredited therapists that work in the UK, that provides evidence based treatment for people.

It was stated that they found when black people talk to a therapist who is not necessarily a person of color, there can be a disconnect at times, it is not that they’re not qualified to do their job. but there is sometimes a misunderstanding about culture, there’s a myth misunderstanding about expressions of pain and expressions where there is not that kind of understanding about racism, and the impact of racism and what we can experience as black people.

You can find out more from their site below

Update: I am going to be involved in an event with Black Minds Matter UK later on this year.