Different ethnic groups have different rates and experiences of mental health problems, reflecting their different cultural and socio-economic contexts and access to culturally appropriate treatments.
In general, people from black and minority ethnic groups living in the UK are:
- more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems
- more likely to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital
- more likely to experience a poor outcome from treatment
- more likely to disengage from mainstream mental health services, leading to social exclusion and a deterioration in their mental health.
These differences may be explained by a number of factors, including poverty and racism. They may also be because mainstream mental health services often fail to understand or provide services that are acceptable and accessible to non-white British communities and meet their particular cultural and other needs.
It is likely that mental health problems go unreported and untreated because people in some ethnic minority groups are reluctant to engage with mainstream health services. It is also likely that mental health problems are over-diagnosed in people whose first language is not English.
Irish people living in the UK have much higher hospital admission rates for mental health problems than other ethnic groups. In particular they have higher rates of depression and alcohol problems and are at greater risk of suicide.
These higher rates may, in part, be caused by social disadvantage among Irish people in the UK, including poor housing and social isolation.
Despite these high rates, the particular needs of Irish people are rarely taken into account in planning and delivering mental health services.
African Caribbean people
African Caribbean people living in the UK have lower rates of common mental disorders than other ethnic groups but are more likely to be diagnosed with severe mental illness. African Caribbean people are three to five times more likely than any other group to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital for schizophrenia.
However, most of the research in this area has been based on service use statistics. Some research suggests that the actual numbers of African Caribbean people with schizophrenia is much lower than originally thought.
African Caribbean people are also more likely to enter the mental health services via the courts or the police, rather than from primary care, which is the main route to treatment for most people. They are also more likely to be treated under a section of the Mental Health Act, are more likely to receive medication, rather than be offered talking treatments such as psychotherapy, and are over-represented in high and medium secure units and prisons.
This may be because they are reluctant to engage with services, and so are much more ill when they do. It may also be that services use more coercive approaches to treatment.
The statistics on the numbers of Asian people in the United Kingdom with mental health problems are inconsistent, although it has been suggested that mental health problems are often unrecognised or not diagnosed in this ethnic group.
Asian people have better rates of recovery from schizophrenia, which may be linked to the level of family support.
Suicide is low among Asian men and older people, but high in young Asian women compared with other ethnic groups. Indian men have a high rate of alcohol related problems.
Research has suggested that Western approaches to mental health treatment are often unsuitable and culturally inappropriate to the needs of Asian communities. Asian people tend to view the individual in a holistic way, as a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual being.
There is very little knowledge of the extent of mental health problems in the Chinese community.
It has been suggested that the close-knit family structure of the Chinese community provides strong support for its members. While this may be beneficial, it may generate feelings of guilt and shame, resulting in people feeling stigmatised and unable to seek help.
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