Services caught in ‘circles of fear’

Fear is preventing black people from engaging
with mental health services, according to a report by the Sainsbury
Centre for Mental Health.

highlights how staff view black service users as potentially
dangerous and the ways in which black service users perceive
services as harmful. The report refers to staff and black service
users’ perceptions as “circles of fear”.

report reveals service users’ fears about being admitted to
hospital, and their feeling that involvement with mental health
services could lead to their deaths. It also states that prejudices
against black people can affect risk assessments and result in an
emphasis on medication and restriction, which can lead to clients
becoming reluctant to ask for help or comply with treatment. This
can lead to harm, reinforcing existing prejudices and provoking
more coercive responses.

survey of more than 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
African and Caribbean people.

people consider mainstream services to be inhumane and unhelpful,
and do not feel their voices are heard. The report finds that they
tend to come to services too late, often when they are already in
crisis, which can also have the effect of reinforcing the circles
of fear.

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 black

also suggests that health and social care agencies should identify
practical steps to encourage black people to take up early services
in community settings. Also, health and social care agencies should
ensure equal access for black people to appropriate counselling and
psychotherapy services.

Breaking the Circles of Fear from 020 7827 8352

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