Racism in the NHS: Good Healthcare for All?

Despite the lack of research regarding mental health for BAME groups, BAME groups are considered to be at higher risk of developing mental health problems. Black adults were found to have the lowest treatment of mental health of any ethnic group, at 6.2%, compared with 13.3% in the white British group. This then poses the question: is there systemic racism in the mental health services?

It is easy to argue that racism is present within mental health services, in regards to BAME women. This can be supported by the 2014 Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS), which found that the prevalence of female mental health problems varies significantly by ethnic group. White British women were the least likely to have a common mental health problem (20.9%), while black people and black British women (29.3%) tend to suffer more from mental health issues. This is likely to stem from the persistent prejudice and discrimination BAME individuals have had to go for many years. Further, BAME adults have been found to receive the least amount of treatment for mental health, which, no doubt, exacerbates the issue.

Studies show that PTSD is higher in women of black ethnic origin: this is directly related to the statistically higher number of sexual assaults that BAME women experience. Arguably, BAME women could be less likely to report sexual assault or seek help for trauma on account of the poor treatment they receive by health services. Furthermore, a 2015 report exploring the relationship between ethnicity and mental health problems found that BAME individuals have a higher prevalence of psychosis compared with white individuals, which, undoubtedly, exacerbates the issue.

There is systemic racism in mental health services, not just as demonstrated by these facts and figures, but by history. Society has come a long way in regards to improving prejudice and discrimination, but there is still a large amount of stigma surrounding BAME  communities and what it means to be black. Further, the idea of black inferiority is still very prevalent. Mental health is a serious problem, and everyone should be treated equally. Things need to change.

Sophie Denham