Why won’t they listen to us?

I have spent over half my life struggling with various phases of
mental health. I had great hopes when the government’s policies and
agendas encouraged active user, carer and community

But this hope has been short-lived. And other black users also feel
that their views are being constantly excluded. Black health
professionals continue to dominate, despite their skewed and
second-hand perspectives of mental health issues. They ignore the
views, experiences and voices of mental health sufferers.

A much-acclaimed piece of research highlights this. The report,
Breaking the Circles of Fear, from the Sainsbury Centre
for Mental Health, has been heralded by all as a masterpiece within
the black mental health field. Yet to me, as a black mental health
survivor, this document belittles the voice and experiences of
users. Listening to them does not come high enough up the list of
recommendations. Finances and support seem to be aimed at the
professionally instigated services. Black survivors do use these,
but often reluctantly because they are there, and because not doing
so would leave them without services.

I am one of two users involved in the National Institute for Mental
Health in England users’ and carers’ steering group. For the past
year and a half I have watched as the same focus and strategies
have been generated by the black professional for black
professionals. This same path and focus can be mirrored in other
black focus projects.

These arenas are specifically set up to focus on black mental
health issues and are well attended by black professionals, while
the number of users present can often be counted on one hand. We
are told that this is because we are not bothered, yet when I ask
black users and survivors about this they tell me that they were
not aware these events were happening.

Information seems to get lost when it comes to black service user
involvement. This negative cycle and exclusive behaviour has to be
taken on board and seriously addressed before time and funding are
wasted on ill thought out strategies and distorted agendas.

But there seems to be no attempt by government bodies to break
these negative patterns. Where is the black community’s mental
health champion to act as a role model for black users and give a
positive view of black mental health? Whose perspective is it

Carol Jenkin is a black disability and mental health

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