Equality and diversity: Findings from the Mental Health Fellowships

From 2016 to 2019 the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust ran the Mental Health Fellowships programme, funding individuals to travel abroad to learn more about how community-based solutions are being created in response to some of today’s most pressing mental health challenges.

The Mental Health Foundation was the expert partner in this programme, helping to shape its aims, select the successful candidates from hundreds of applicants and provide mentoring to the successful Churchill Fellows. In total, 59 Fellows were chosen to investigate best practice in 17 countries and bring back new evidence and ideas to create positive change in their profession, practice and communities in the UK. This is one of four briefings that distil the key findings from this rich body of learning, and make recommendations for policy and practice in the UK. Each briefing focuses on an aspect of the Mental Health Fellowships’ overarching theme ‘community-based solutions’, and an overview of the learning from this Fellowship can be found in the programme’s summative briefing.

Scope

This briefing on Equality and Diversity brings together learning from five Fellows’ research in Australia, Canada and the USA, demonstrating how approaches in other countries are being used to help reduce

mental health inequalities and protect the rights of vulnerable groups.

Section 1: Reducing mental health inequalities for minority groups

Focuses on some of the mental health problems experienced by minority groups, provides a number of case studies and findings from three Fellows’ research, and details good practice examples of culturally competent support.

Section 2: Protecting the human rights of vulnerable groups

Introduces the relationship between human rights law and mental health, provides a number of case studies and findings from two Fellows’ research, and details good practice examples of human rights legislation being used to protect the mental health of vulnerable groups.

Why equality and diversity?

Mental health is something that we all have, and mental health problems are something we can all experience, whatever our background and walk of life. The risks of developing mental ill-health, however, are not equally distributed, with some groups of people being more likely to develop mental health problems than others.

People living in financial hardship, for example, are at increased risk of developing mental health problems and lower mental wellbeing. Similarly, people from minority groups who are exposed to

discrimination and social exclusion based on race, gender and sexual orientation are also at greater risk. There is consistent evidence of a higher incidence of psychosis among immigrants, particularly among ethni minority populations, and across England, Scotland and Wales, 52% of LGBT+ people have experienced depression in the last year. This is far higher than the national average, with 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16 and over experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Everyone should have an equal opportunity to live well and experience good mental health; it is unjust that some people in society should be at greater risk of developing mental health problems than

others. In recent years, much has been done to combat this problem. The combined efforts of researchers, policy makers and the general public (to name a few), along with the introduction and adaptation of

equality and human rights-based legislation, have led to major advances in creating a more tolerant, accepting and equal society that protects and supports the rights of all citizens and their mental health.

There remains however, a long way to go, and the Fellows’ research is a welcome and timely contribution, as we continue to look for new ways to help reduce mental health inequalities and create a fully inclusive, more mentally healthy society. As the radical revolution of mental health services progresses - with a community-based care model largely replacing the acute and longterm care provided in in-patient settings - the Fellows offer innovative ideas for how we as individuals, families and communities can work together to support each other in respectful, inclusive and culturally appropriate ways, valuing our rights and enabling us all to feel appreciated for who we are, in all our diversity.