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Ethnic minorities experience persisting inequality in treatment for mental health problems

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New research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London has assessed the prevalence of common mental health problems experienced by people from ethnic minority backgrounds and investigated the longstanding treatment inequalities experienced in these groups.

The paper, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, used data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, and found that people from all ethnic minority groups were less likely to receive a range of interventions for problems like depression or anxiety compared to White British people.

The study compared data collected during 2007 and 2014. The investigators not only found that White British people had the highest likelihood for receiving treatment compared to people from all other ethnic backgrounds, but also that the inequality gap widened during that 7 year period, for Black people with these conditions.

The researchers suggest that persistent inequalities emphasize the urgent need to improve access to existing therapies for common mental health problems, and the need to design and invest in mental health support options that are appropriate for people from ethnic minority backgrounds, where needs are not being met by existing services.

“This study underlines how the mental health needs of minoritised communities in England are not being met. Our research illustrates a concerning trend of declining access to help for common mental health problems, especially for Black communities, but all minority ethnic groups in our study encountered unequal access to mental healthcare. It has been twenty years since the last nationally representative survey detailing the mental health of minority ethnic communities in Britain was conducted. There is an urgent need to follow up our study with a nationally representative survey of ethnic minority mental health, to better understand the reasons for these disparities,” Dr. Jayati Das-Munshi, senior author from King’s IOPPN and the Centre for Society and Mental Health said.

Gargie Ahmad, the study’s first author from King’s IoPPN said, “Our findings reflect an enduring pattern for people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the UK being less likely to receive appropriate help for common mental health problems, in contrast to stark overrepresentation, particularly for Black people, in being detained under the Mental Health Act at points of crisis.

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