I have always been interested in people’s overall wellbeing but developed particular interest in mental wellbeing when I was trying to integrate into my community after arriving in the UK ten years ago. I had a mental breakdown and was offered counselling therapy but attended only one session because I could not relate to the therapist and didn’t think she understood me. Once settled I volunteered with Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC). Here, I witnessed beneficiaries take counselling sessions and disengaging after two or three sessions. This puzzled but inspired me to study Psychology so I enrolled into the University of Warwick to study the subject. While studying, I volunteered with Coventry and Warwickshire Mind in their Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) department. I witnessed individuals getting better after a few sessions but access to this service by Black Minority Ethnic (BME) communities was next to zero. These statistics were maintained in my job at graduation where I worked in the housing department of the same organisation providing support to individuals experiencing mental health problems. This puzzled me further so I decided to explore the refugee/migrant journey and enrolled for a post graduate course at the University of Warwick. I studied extensively on refugees and their rights on their International Development Law and Human Rights programme. This confirmed a refugee/migrant journey characterised by mental illness inducing events. My thesis investigated why recent female migrants experiencing domestic abuse do not seek recourse from the law and findings revealed intersectional issues that combine to create barriers to doing this. This left me wondering whether the same applied to seeking help for mental health problems by the BME community at large.
Sadly, on arrival to the UK, asylum seekers, refugees and migrants are met by a hostile environment where they face inequalities across all indicators of economic and social wellbeing. Many of them occupy positions of disadvantage. They have higher rates of unemployment and if employed are over qualified for their jobs and face discrimination, live in poorer housing, report poorer health, and have lower levels of academic achievement. In the UK, it is established that mental health problems are more common among BME communities than they are in the general population. Evidence suggests they are disproportionately detained under the Mental Health Act 2007 and usually come into contact with mental health services through the criminal justice system rather than the general referral system. People from BME communities are also known to be confronted with ethnically based prejudice and discrimination by health professionals thereby having poorer experiences of and outcomes from mental health services. There is evidence they present at crisis point which suggest an unwillingness to engage with mental health services. Historically, people from minority ethnic communities are known to be under represented in health research and hence, most interventions are developed for mainstream societies. This precludes the understanding of their health needs thereby having a negative impact on the development of effective services and interventions adequate for them.
My thesis for my post-graduate course researched reasons why recent immigrant women living in the UK who are experiencing domestic violence do not engage the law and it was at this time when I realised that in the UK, mental health problems are more common among BME communities than they are in the general population, that BME communities are more likely to disengage from mainstream mental health services, encounter mental health services through the criminal justice system rather than referral from GPs and are disproportionately detained under the Mental Health Act. I work for a mental health service provider and truly access to this service by people from BME communities is next to zero. This inspired me to set up an organisation that would stop mental ill-health in BME communities before it stops them so I approached my colleagues Susie Brennan and Margaret Msimbe who both have a wealth of experience in health and social care, particularly mental health and Inini Initiative Ltd was born.
Increase awareness of mental health within BME communities to remove the stigma and social exclusion promoting support by improving awareness of mental health needs.
Build relationships with individuals so they talk openly about past experiences, trauma or concerns about adapting to a new culture providing the opportunity to talk to someone who will understand and advise them.
Advocacy for clients for whom English isn’t the first language to help them understand the Mental Health support services available to them and to encourage improved access to these services through signposting in community settings.
Assistance to enable health professionals to understand how to conduct culturally appropriate assessments with clients from BME communities building an understanding of mental health needs and improving service design and delivery with better health outcomes for service users.