Tag Archives: bame

Black History Month – BAME carers

10177241_747738765268892_5890142387668348507_nThanks for dropping by my website. This blog is usually aimed at unpaid carers and promoting mental health awareness. There will be times I will provide updates from the carer forums I host around South London, but due to limited resources, I just cannot always update.

Going off topic, at the time of this particular post, it is the 28th of Monday October 2019. Black History Month is soon drawing to a close, but there are still plenty of events going on around the UK. I have just participated at the St Andrews Black History conference, which was the first of its kind for the Charity. I am bound to blog a bit more about that when I get some time, however the conference opened my eyes to the challenges of BAME nurses and mental health professionals.

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Still, I thought that this is not the time to focus on mental health professionals on this post, I want to jot down some thoughts about BAME unpaid carers. I know one of my forums is focuses on BAME families and carers, but to understand why I decided to set up that forum in Lewisham, it would be a good idea to carry on reading.

The struggle of BAME Carers

As an unpaid carer trying to work out my roles and duties. I felt my identity as a carer/BAME needs some highlighting. Even if it seems complex to others on being a Mental Health BAME unpaid carer. Such an identity shows the complexity and issues that I would need to face. Being an unpaid carer working towards being identified can often be a struggle, especially when caring during a crisis, but unfortunately carrying out a role and ones own identity can make matters tricky.

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It is a sad fact that BAME carers tend not to engage much with services. There seems to be some form of distrust as to why their loved one is struggling with health services, especially mental health services. I see there is much change going on and for the better, I notice so many people trying very hard to change things for the better and I thank them for this, but there is still some ways to go.

The issue with BAME carers regarding mental health services is that they can be tired of the same journey. Having to challenge unconscious bias or wondering if they are being judged on their actions or on identity. Sometimes BAME families and carers feel they are being pushed into labelled boxes as engagement policies strive to identify BAME issues.

It does not help that their are also social challenges as well as health challenges within the BAME community, which can make life even harder for BAME families and carers.

If all the above was not tough enough, then BAME groups sometimes suffer from getting specific tailored support due to cultural misconceptions, language difficulties, stigma related issues and unfortunately discrimination.

So with all the above demanding change and attention, what can a BAME carer like myself do?

The power of BAME Carers

The first thing is to raise awareness of these experiences. Ever heard of the quote “A problem identified is half solved?”. Well I am not sure if the quote was said in this many, but it speaks volumes. BAME carers need to unfortunately help in raising awareness, especially of their experiences. BAME carers ought to try and network with other carers, just as some way to reduce the isolation. The more a person becomes isolated, the more they lack that vital support.

Unpaid carers often miss out on social interaction, specifically if the carer is supporting someone with serious mental health illness. It is so important carers recognise their isolation and take steps to counter the loneliness. It is ok to feel lonely, but to stay lonely is not ok.

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As a carer, so much usually goes on in my mind, there probably is not a day that I do not replay my failings and difficult experiences in my head. Perhaps I am too hard on myself, but at least I am slightly aware that I need that support. If you are a BAME carer, do yourself a favour and network. Phone a friend even if it is just to be heard.

For black history month, I made it my mission to take part in events that celebrate the diversity of the community. As a BAME carer, if you can get out there and speak about your experiences, it can shed more light on the subject of identity. Sometimes it is just on learning about your past and the culture you came from, sometimes we are more than what we do.

You deserve to have your voice and relate to the community, even if its for just that month. Being part of something need not be a challenge, but unfortunately BAME carers need to find somewhere that supports their voice and urges them to be part of the health system. As with BAME carers, we should be encouraged to be aware and celebrate what makes us different and feeling no shame or stigma about it. Deep down thought as carers we are all alike as we experience the same emotion all other unpaid carers go through. Those would be the fear that illness is taking it toll, the joy that we are supporting those we care about and so on.

There is nothing wrong in being proud as a carer, its not an easy role and depending on the MH or health challenges, the struggle of caring should be counted. It is not your fault that the person has become unwell, you are trying the best you can, especially if you are a young carer.

As BAME carers, even though its great to have Black History month boost, celebrate and educate our achievements. It should also be used as a welcoming of all who want to celebrate with us. As carers our nature is to be inclusive of others and we also require others to emulate what we are trying to do, especially healthcare. As carers we wish to see inclusive healthcare celebrating diversity and being proud it if, despite the challenges being asked.

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From what I have learnt from Black History month, which can help in regards to BAME carers is that we wish to avoid being forgotten. There is so much more to be learnt from Black History month, but as a carer the fear is that we could be forgotten as those we care about slip into declining health. It is an awful fearful experience to struggle alone at times and it really helps if someone out there acknowledges our struggle.

Thank you for reading and have a happy Black History Month.

Lewisham BAME MH Carer Forum August 2019

me_edited-1Welcome to another update from an unpaid carer who is involved in their local mental health trust and communities. I often try and engage with communities as much as possible, be it through running carer strategy groups, giving my views and engaging with events.

For the August Lewisham BAME Mental Health Carers forum, we focused on Patient Participation Groups and also updates from the South London and Maudsley Inpatient Social worker over at Lewisham hospital.

The Lewisham Black Asian Minority Ethnic Carers group is one of the 4 groups that not only focuses on carers, but makes a distinction on their background, culture and ethnicity.

BAME groups are more likely to experience stigma and distress due to cultural interpretations and systems set up or designed that does not take into account BAME communities. Lewisham is certainly one of the most diverse London boroughs around so it really helps that communities get together to discuss and educate each other on issues regarding health.

Lewisham Ward Map

The Lewisham BAME carers forums also accommodates those using services, but there still needs to be a drive to engage with more BAME carers who are very uncertain of their role and perhaps lack peer support and identity.

The carers forum runs from Lewisham, Bromley and Greenwich Mind under the Community Wellbeing umbrella.

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Lewisham Community Wellbeing is delivered in partnership with several other local charities and public sector organisations. We have been very lucky to get the support of Mind who probably have a lot on as it is and there will be some very exciting community projects coming up soon.

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We have around 45 to 50 doctor’s practices in Lewisham and I was fortunate enough to have the chair of one of the largest doctors practice in Lewisham. Alexandra Camies does an immense amount of work engaging with patients for the doctors practice she helps with. The doctors surgery is also a member of the National Association Of Patient Participation or N.A.P.P. I have always said to carers and patients that doctors are usually the gatekeeper to services, if you feel your doctors practice could do more for you or the community, perhaps look into how their Patient Participation group works.

So what is a PPG anyway? What do they do?

  • PPGs offer patients an opportunity to be involved with and support their local General Practice. For the South Lewisham Health Centre. Here are some of the following things that PPG involves.
  • Patients wishing to join must, in order to comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), complete an application form.
  • They currently have a committee of 8 patients, including aChair and Secretary.Committee members are provided with written details of their roles, responsibilities and key relationships.
  • They have the assistance of the surgery Patient Liaison Officer, who attends each meeting and provides us with any help needed at the surgery.
  • They have a GP representative (usually a partner), and the Patient Services Manager that attends the meeting.
  • All members are invited to general meeting, held quarterly, and asked if they have any agenda items to put forward for discussion.
  • Members that are unable to attend are able to have a virtual input via email. Virtual members are sent copies of the minutes, which are also placed on the practice web site for all to view.
  • Committee members take on a little more responsibility at the South Lewisham PPG, taking a part in organising events or projects, or helping with various admin tasks. Committee meetings take place as and when needed.
  • Members may be being asked to help out for such things as events.

Take note not all doctor’s surgeries are alike. Some do not have the resources to have a PPG, but it does not stop patients from helping set one up. I explained to the forum that your doctors surgery is only as good as the community that cares for it and uses it.

How can a success for Patient participation group operate?

  • The PPG should try monitor progress against objectives
  • Publicise their successes
  • Involve people and not that would mean patients, especially those whose voice is not often heard.
  • Learn from other groups, usually other PPGs hence the PPG Network.
  • Build on and work with their network of health and wellbeing groups and organisations.
  • Expand activity where possible
  • Make sure to review our objectives regularly

There are only a very small part of what a PPG doctors surgery should work towards. Alex gave the group an excellent presentation and we both learnt and picked up ideas from each other. I reminded the group that they could start their own projects and inquire about their local doctors patient participation group.

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If you want more information about South Lewisham GP Practice, check out their website below.

http://www.southlewishamgrouppractice.co.uk/

Next up was Errol Chambers who is the social work for the Lewisham Hospital Ladywell unit. It was great that SLaM engages with the BAME forum, because I have always stressed the the forum represents empowerment when we form as a group. If SLaM staff recognise this, then they can support us, although we try hard not to be antagonistic. Errol gave us a choice on what information the group would want be it on benefits or on how the Ladywell unit is operating currently. The group wanted updates on the ladywell unit and we discussed changes and progress regarding patients experience of the mental health unit.

Lewisham CCG was mentioned quite a lot as they invest in the services and are keen to see if the hospital is working to the best of its abilities. Many members pressed for a relationship with the units, but also felt that staff development must be key as a good quality service. This is mainly down to how staff engage with patients and their carers.

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At the end of the forum, I updated on the planning meeting for Lewisham CCG’s stakeholder event and also for Lewisham’s Carers conference requested by my MP Janet Daby who is a carer herself. I also pointed out that the Lewisham HR lead will be at the BAME forum for September. I have asked we are updated on the following.

BME staff engagement – What else is happening to engage with BAME community.

Plus small updates on the following.

  • SLaM’s Health and well-being strategy
  • SLaM’s Talent management programme
  • The South London Partnership collaboration (South west london & St georges, South London & Maudsley and Oxleas NHS Trust)

Plus an update on whats been done for staff to tackle.

  • Equal opportunity for career progression
  • Violence
  • Bullying & harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Stress
  • Flexible working

I guess as a carer, I do not ask for much. Still, I mentioned to the group…knowledge is power.

That is the August update for the Lewisham BAME MH carers forum.