Fear is preventing black people from engaging with mental health
services, according to a report from the Sainsbury Centre for
Mental Health, writes Katie Leason.
‘Circles of fear’ result in staff viewing black service users as
potentially dangerous and black service users perceiving services
In the report service users expressed fears about being admitted
to hospital, and even that involvement with mental health services
could lead to their deaths.
The report says that prejudices against black people can affect
risk assessments and result in an emphasis on medication and
restriction, which can lead to service users becoming reluctant to
ask for help or comply with treatment. This can lead to harm,
reinforcing existing prejudices and provoking even more coercive
The survey of over 200 black service users, carers,
professionals and police finds that stereotypical views of black
people, racism, cultural ignorance and the stigma attached to
mental illness often undermine the way mental health services
assess and respond to the needs of African and Caribbean
Black people consider mainstream services to be inhumane and
unhelpful, and do not feel their voices are heard. They tend to
come to services too late when they are already in crisis, the
report finds, and this too can have the effect of reinforcing the
circles of fear.
The report makes 15 recommendations, including a proposal for
the National Institute for Mental Health to create and fund a
national programme of mental health promotion aimed at the black
‘Breaking the Circles of Fear’ from 020 7827 8352.