Government must act on mental health of young Black men, charity warns

Charity warns mental health of young Black men has been unequally ‘hit hard’ by the pandemic, with concerns around the long-term effects on their education, employment and mental wellbeing.

11/03/21

Government must act on mental health of young Black men, charity warns

Young Black men have been unequally affected by the pandemic and urgent cross-government action is needed now to avoid jeopardising their futures, the Centre for Mental Health has warned.

In a new briefing document, the charity cited data from the University of Exeter that men from ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds’ reported a 14% deterioration in mental health over the course of the pandemic, compared to 6.5% of white males.

In addition, data from the online counselling platform Kooth, showed that self-reported depression within racialised communities had increased by 9.2% during lockdowns, compared to a 16.2% decrease amongst white young people, the charity said.

The effects of the pandemic on young Black men have been exacerbated by increased levels of bereavement and grief within Black communities, as they are twice as likely to contract COVID-19 compared to white people in the UK, the briefing found.

In addition, Black men were found to be more than three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white men their age, according to data from the Office of National Statistics.

A survey carried out by the Runnymede Trust last year found that nearly one in five (19%) people from Black African and Black Caribbean backgrounds said they knew someone who had died of the virus by June 2020.

The pandemic has also exposed a lack of culturally appropriate bereavement support for Black communities, the briefing concluded.

“Dealing with loss and grief has been extremely challenging for the Black community,” the briefing stated.

“Many families have been unable to visit their dying relatives or hold traditional funerals or ceremonies as a result of the lockdown. This has made the grieving process even more difficult and complex, including for young Black men.”

The Centre for Mental Health said that the pandemic had “exposed and amplified existing inequalities” within society, citing research that shows that young Black men have been unequally affected across many areas including education, employment, and policing.

The briefing cited research that found that whilst all young people’s education has been severely disrupted by the crisis, pre-existing racial biases within the education system – such as young Black men historically being excluded at higher rates, as well as the under-predicting of their grades – could worsen as a result of the pandemic.

In addition, data shows that young Black men aged 16-25 are amongst the hardest hit by rising unemployment and are more likely to report income losses due to lockdown restrictions.

Policing, as well as the enforcement of lockdown fines, was also found to be disproportionately affecting young Black men, who are much more likely to be stopped and searched and issued fines for breaching lockdown measures, according to the latest research.

The data was compiled by the Shifting the Dial partnership, a collaboration involving Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Centre for Mental Health, First Class Foundation and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, seeking to promote the mental health of young Black men in Birmingham.

The Centre for Mental Health says it is concerned that young Black men have been largely overlooked throughout the pandemic has called on the Government to act upon the research collated in its briefing to properly address inequalities and to offer tailored support to protect their mental health and future prospects.

In addition, the charity says the NHS should invest in specific support for young Black men, including working directly with community organisations and focusing efforts to build a more representative mental health care workforce.

The briefing also calls for targeted educational and employment support for young Black men, a moratorium on all school exclusions in the aftermath of the pandemic, as well as a review into policing methods over the course if the crisis.

Kadra Abdinasir, Head of Children and Young People at the Centre for Mental Health, warned that the pandemic presented issues that could have long-term effects on the mental health of young Black men.

“The pandemic and the recent wave of the Black Lives Matter movement have shone a spotlight on structural racism in the UK,” said Abdinasir.

“Young Black men are caught at the intersection between the current crisis and longstanding inequalities. They are bearing the brunt, and the worst may be yet to come.

“Young Black men have been overlooked in the pandemic response. Even before the pandemic, they faced significant mental health inequalities and were less likely to have their needs appropriately met by mainstream mental health services. It is now essential that concerted action is taken to prevent the current crisis from blighting young Black men’s lives long-term."

Read the full briefing here:
www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/publication/download/CentreforMentalHealth_ShiftingTheDial_YBM_Covid_0.pdf

The partnership collated data from a variety of sources, each often with their own terms for the groups studied. As such, any homogenised terms used in this article have been included in inverted commas, and references to multiple communities who experience racial inequality are included within the term ‘racialised communities’, in line with the authors of the briefing document.

For clarity, the term ‘young Black men’ used throughout both this article and the briefing document is used to refer to young men of Black African and Black Caribbean descent.

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