Tackling racial disparities in mental health services

Marcel Vige, co-chair of the Black and Minority Ethnic Mental Health Network, offers the following advice on how mental health services can tackle racial disparities.

In seeking to address ethnic inequality within mental health, reconsidering the working practices of mental health staff is crucial.

Despite the fact that black and minority ethnic people make up a large contingent of mental health nurses and support staff, established working practices and the general culture of mental health services contribute to the maintenance of ethnic differences in how services are experienced.

Such working practices determine the form of engagement between staff and patients. This situation is further reinforced by the relatively low numbers of BME people in senior positions within mental health services. So what may be done to address this?
• Attaching explicit race equality policies to the recruitment and promotion of senior staff positions.
• Consultation around race equality as an integral part of work-planning, involving internal staff support groups in this process.
• Facilitating BME staff support systems such as worker groups which can be drawn on as a consultation source and fed into organisational governance.
• Incorporating the responses to race/cultural issues of service users within the supervision/appraisal processes of front-line staff and management.
• Drawing in all staff in the development of and adherence to the organisational race equality scheme.

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