Royal college: Slow progress on mental health for BME elders

Little progress has been made in improving mental health services for black and minority ethnic older people over the past eight years, according to a review by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

The study, which looked at how BME mental health services for older people have changed since a similar RCP report was published in 2001, said few examples of good practice had emerged on the lines of recommendations drawn up in the original report.

These included training psychiatric services staff in culturally sensitive issues and developing BME-specific continuing care services in the community.

Rise in older population among BME groups

The proportion of people over 65 in BME communities in England and Wales in 2001 was 8.2% of the total BME population, compared with just 3% 10 years earlier.

Research has shown that BME older people are often unaware of available mental health services and are more likely to be turned down if they apply.

A study of African-Caribbean older people in Islington also found that they were less likely than white British older people to view depression as an illness or consult their GP.

Need to develop culturally sensitive services

Authors Ajit Shah and Simon Adelman warned that culturally appropriate and sensitive mental health services needed to be developed now in order to deal with the rapid growth in the BME older person population.

Dave Anderson, chair of the RCP Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry, said: “It is vital to improve access to specialist older people’s mental health services equipped to meet the needs of this neglected group of older people.”

The report made six new recommendations, including developing diagnostic tools in a number of different languages for dementia and depression and providing information to BME older people via cassettes, CDs, videos and DVDs.

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