Being young, black and female in the mental health system

The Our Minds, Our Future campaign was set up this year by a group of young campaigners from across the UK. These young campaigners have come together because they all recognise a common issue that young people aged 16-25 are often forgotten and failed by the mental health system.  The campaign aims to champion and elevate the voices of marginalized young people who are often excluded from the mainstream mental health discourse. This is a youth-led campaign run by Youth Access and is under the Make Our Rights Reality project which aims to teach young people about their rights to empower them to challenge injustice.

It appears that the mental health of young people is being discussed more frequently and yet the same narratives seem to be appearing over and over again. While validating and discussing mental health issues is great, it’s not enough. We need to be paying more attention to how the varied lived experiences of people in the UK inevitably impacts mental wellbeing.

A ‘one-size fits all’ approach to mental health care will not only further marginalize individuals who feel less empowered to speak out about their struggles, but will cause their illness to get worse.

It’s time we recognize that stereotypes are not just inaccurate generalisations, they seriously impact and at times unfortunately end lives. Take the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype for example, by subjecting black women to one emotion, not only are they seen as a threat but they are not afforded the complexities nor the rollercoaster of emotions that mentally ill people often experience. By only seeing black femininity as angry, young black women in education, the workplace or in their personal lives may feel disempowered to say that they are struggling. This stereotype in particular stops young black women from expressing genuine frustration and dissatisfaction due to anxiety induced fear of being labelled and not listened to.

Marcel Vige, the head of equality improvement at Mind, says,

"The figures around black men are high, but they are also very high for black women too".

While it can feel disheartening to see the deeply embedded racial and gendered bias in the mental health system, this does not mean you cannot receive effective mental health care as a young black woman living in the UK. Charities such as Mind acknowledge the racial bias for black people in the mental health system, and there is a lot of research out there to support you in receiving specialist care.

‘’Last year it was reported that nearly 30% of black British women experience depression. Mental illness within the black population is clearly a thing, statistically’’

As a young black woman aged 16-25 you have rights when it comes to accessing care and knowing about biases in psychiatry can help you identify when you may feel you’ve been misdiagnosed or mistreated based on the colour of your skin or your gender identity.  You have options and deserve to have the knowledge and the resources available to receive treatment.  

 

If you need support but don’t know where to go then here are some useful links;

https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/mental-health-services-explained/Pages/accessing%20services.aspx

https://mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/crisis-services/#.WgSHEXZ6QdU

http://www.youthaccess.org.uk/services/find-your-local-service

Here are some links to British black women discussing their experiences with mental health;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072j0mq

https://www.psychologies.co.uk/laura-mvula-generation-anxiety

References; https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/08/black-women-mental-health-high-rates-depression-anxiety

http://www.thedebrief.co.uk/news/opinion/mental-healthcare-in-the-uk-still-has-a-huge-race-problem-20170767665

Extra info;

https://21ninety.com/get-ya-mind-right-lets-discuss-black-women-and-mental-health

http://www.sunypress.edu/p-6408-black-womens-mental-health.aspx

http://atlantablackstar.com/2015/07/03/ptsd-and-mental-health-disorders-in-black-people-linked-to-trauma-from-racism-and-violence/