Through discussion with service users, carers and members of staff, the project sought to explore the following questions:
- What do BME service users experience as they navigate their way through acute and community mental health services in Croydon?
- What challenges are faced by BME service users, their carers and service staff within mental health services, in particular reference to the service users’ ethnicity?
- What recommendations can be made so mental health services can better meet the needs of service users from BME backgrounds, as identified through this partnership project?
This report presents and summarises the voice and experience of the participants in their own words.
Croydon’s population comprises of 363,400 residents, with 44.9% of these residents coming from BME communities. Croydon has the twelfth-largest proportion of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) residents in London, making its demographic comparable to inner London boroughs such as Hackney, Lewisham, Lambeth, Barking and Dagenham.
In terms of the health and wellbeing of Croydon’s BME population, mental health is a core component and is as important as physical health. Good mental health is a key factor in successful psychological and social functioning and poor mental health is associated with poor socioeconomic status, poor education and poor opportunities for employment, and a host of inequalities, some of which fall under the umbrella term ‘social exclusion’.
According to the London Health Observatory’s mental health scorecard, last conducted in 2011, Croydon does well on some aspects of primary care mental health services but less well on others:
“Croydon has met its target for employing community development workers, but there are inequalities in admissions to adult psychiatric inpatient services by ethnic group”
“There are ethnic inequalities in admissions to adult psychiatric inpatient services in Croydon… The admission rate for White ethnic groups in Croydon is 32% higher than the England average for all ethnic groups, whilst the admission rate for Black ethnic groups in Croydon is almost double the England average”
This report aims to explore some of the inequalities previously identified, giving participants an opportunity to share their experiences and express their voice, highlighting the often overlooked aspects of BME mental health service provision.
The Need for Partnership
Since 2007, Hear Us has managed a user focussed monitoring (UFM) project within mental health services in Croydon. This project, called the Linkworking Project, recruits current or ex local service users (Linkworkers) to visit mental health services and conduct consultation sessions with service users. Through these sessions, Hear Us provides an opportunity for service users to raise their concerns, issues and needs as they arise, which can then be fed back to the service providers (via the Linkworkers).
By providing a Linkworking service within mental health settings, Hear Us’ objectives
- Improve service users’ experiences of accessing services, enabling greater involvement of people with mental health problems in the delivery and provision of services.
- Encourage Linkworkers to engage positively with services, providing an opportunity for Linkworkers to engage in meaningful work and develop attitudes towards mental health.
- Enable service providers to develop more inclusive and accessible mental health services and organisations, in particular for BME communities. The remit of the CDWs is to support mental health services and community organisations to engage Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities in their work by:
- Empowering BME communities to play a key role in the development of services.
- Identifying barriers to accessing mental health services.
- Raising awareness of mental health issues and challenging mental health stigma within BME communities.
- Acting as a supportive link between BME communities and mental health services.
- Helping organisations to build capacity.
- Bridging the gap between community organisations and statutory services, providing information and advice on how to engage with BME groups.
Using the Linkworking Project, the project partners had an existing mechanism to enable them to reach service users from BME backgrounds within mental health services. The partnership has enabled the team of Linkworkers to work alongside the CDWs, using the model of peer-to- peer support and user focussed monitoring to encourage service users to share their experiences. Through these discussions, the project began to investigate and collect the experiences of BME service users, carers and members of staff within the mental health system, which are presented in more detail in the following report.