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81% British Indians experience shame and stigma in talking about mental health issues, finds a survey

A survey of over 2,300 British Indians living in the United Kingdom has thrown up the startling fact that 76% of them experienced various challenges in accessing mental health services.

British Indians living in the UK face many challenges in accessing the state’s mental health services, a survey has found. The main reason cited is inappropriate treatment for their culture.

The new report, titled Improving Access to Mental Healthcare for British Indians, published by 1928 Institute and Researcher Fellow at the University of Oxford. A think-tank for researching and representing the challenges and concerns of the Indian community has been commissioned to improve Black, Asian and minority ethnic community experiences of mental health services. It aims to be able to help in the formation of a national organisational competency framework for NHS Mental Health Trusts.

The challenges

The impact of the pandemic and the resulting rise in cost of living is taking a toll on the mental health of communities, forcing one in four to seek professional mental health support, which, sadly, is not easily available to them. The survey found that most mental healthcare professionals assumed British Indians would get family support, whereas the diaspora believed that the appointment time allotted to them was too less to discuss mental health issues.

Though most of these challenges can be overcome at a community level, the urgent need for safe spaces to discuss mental health in a culturally sensitive way was the biggest highlight of the survey. Kiran Kaur Manku, Co-Founder of the 1928 Institute and Researcher Fellow at the University of Oxford, said, “With the upcoming 75th anniversary of Partition and 50th anniversary of the expulsion of Indians from east Africa, this year is expected to be challenging for many. As those memories reignite, many will be reliving traumatic events or reflecting on the impact of an uncontrollable force of social injustice – it is critical that these issues are understood and addressed in a timely manner.”

Front-line NHS staff can help

The community has time and again called for the healthcare professionals to learn about their culture, key historic events and cultural nuances. Therapists need to learn from their peers and offer well-rounded treatment plans, found the survey.

Survey figures for overcoming the challenges, at a glance:

  • 60% of British healthcare professionals just assumed that ‘family support network’ would be available to meet a British Indian’s needs
  • 87% felt the need for increased community outreach in education and employment
  • 53% felt outreach in community centres and places of worship can help
  • 86% of the diaspora faced discrimination from their GP, or other professional
  • 81% experienced shame and stigma in talking about mental health issues
  • 92% said GP appointments are too short to successfully diagnose the need for mental health support
  • 94% opined services are only available to those who can cry out the need loud

Kiran Kaur adds, “Our data has found that more work needs to be done to address the needs of the British Indian diaspora. It is vital that individuals can openly discuss mental health challenges without discrimination, stigma, or shame. The NHS teams across the country have done a fantastic job, working tirelessly to help so many, but the South Asian diaspora are feeling left behind. A collaborative effort between policy makers, healthcare professionals and communities is required to drive meaningful change, and shape the future of the UK’s mental health care system which is inclusive, not just for British Indians, but for all races and ethnicities.”

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