Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities

In England and Wales, nearly one in five of us come from a BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) background. Challenges such as racism, stigma and inequalities can affect the mental health of people from BAME communities.

*Last updated: 30 September 2021

We recognise that not everyone likes the term BAME. It covers a wide range of people with a diverse range of needs, and it can be problematic to put all those people into a single group. However, it can be a useful term to show that people who aren’t White British can face specific issues and challenges because of their ethnicity. We use BAME here as a shorthand term, but acknowledge people can find it unsatisfying or prefer to use a different term to describe themselves.

Are rates of mental ill health different for people from a BAME background?

Rates of mental health problems can be higher for some BAME groups than for White people. For example:

  • Black men are more likely to have experienced a psychotic disorder in the last year than White men
  • Black people are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than White people
  • older South Asian women are an at-risk group for suicide
  • refugees and asylum seekers are more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population, including higher rates of depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Some groups have better mental health. For example:

  • people of Indian, Pakistani and African-Caribbean origin showed higher levels of mental wellbeing than other ethnic groups
  • suicidal thoughts and self-harm were less common in Asian people than White people.
  • mental ill-health is lower among Chinese people than White people.

With all these statistics, it’s important to note that they might not reflect the true extent of mental health problems among BAME groups. This is because not much data is available, and also because BAME people may be less likely to report mental health problems.

What can affect the mental health of people from BAME communities?

As well as the factors that can affect everyone's mental health, people from BAME communities may also contend with racism, inequality and mental health stigma.

Racism and discrimination

Racism can range from micro-aggressions (subtle but offensive comments) to explicit hurtful words to verbal or physical aggression. Experiencing racism can be very stressful and have a negative effect on your overall health and your mental health.

Being exposed to racism may increase your likelihood of experiencing mental health problems such as psychosis and depression.

If you’ve experienced racism, read our page on stigma and discrimination. While the page is about mental health, the tips on how to make a complaint are relevant to all cases of discrimination. There is also a list of organisations that can help and advise you.

Social and economic inequalities

People from BAME communities often face disadvantages in society. They are more likely to:

  • experience poverty and homelessness
  • do less well at school
  • be unemployed
  • be in contact with the criminal justice system
  • face challenges accessing services.

Each of these can increase the risk of developing mental health problems.

Mental health stigma

Different communities understand and talk about mental health in different ways.

In some communities, mental health problems are rarely recognised or spoken about. They may be seen as shameful or embarrassing. This can discourage people from talking about their mental health or going to their GP for help.

What barriers can BAME people face when getting support?

People from BAME backgrounds have the same right as everyone else to access mental treatment and services. But research shows BAME people can face barriers to getting help, including:

  • not recognising they have a mental illness because mental health was stigmatised or never talked about in their community
  • not knowing that help is available, or where to go to get it
  • language barriers
  • turning to family or friends rather than professional support, especially for people who don’t trust formal healthcare services
  • financial barriers, such as paying for private counselling
  • not feeling listened to or understood by healthcare professionals
  • White professionals not understanding their experiences of racism or discrimination.

How can I find support that’s right for me?

As a BAME person, you have the right to mental health support just like everyone else. Have a look at our Getting help page for ideas on things to try and places to go.

You may want support that’s from and/or for people of your ethnic background. If so, try one of the organisations listed below.

General

For specific groups of people

  • The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network has a directory of therapists of Black, African, Asian or Caribbean heritage.
  • Black Minds Matter connects Black individuals and families to free mental health support provided by Black therapists.
  • Comhar is a weekly group for Irish men living in Camden run by the Mental Health Foundation. Men can talk about the challenges they’re facing and how they cope with them, as well as general topics such as music, sport and history. (Irish people living in the UK, while not included as a BAME group, have much higher hospital admission rates for mental health problems than other ethnic groups.)
  • Sharing Voices works with various BAME groups in Bradford to offer emotional support, group sessions and befriending services.
  • Taraki works with Punjabi communities to create spaces where people can access mental health support and education. You can join their virtual forums for men, women and LGBTQ+ people.