Student Kelechi (left) wants to help more Black people to enter the field of mental health care (Pictures: Kelechi Matthias/Getty)
A student who experienced ‘culturally incompetent’ mental healthcare has launched an initiative to encourage more Black professionals into the field.
Kelechi Matthias, a psychology student at the University of Warwick, has experienced first hand what it is like to receive counselling from someone who doesn’t truly understand your lived experiences as a minority.
‘The lack of culturally competent care within the mental health service is very much a danger to the Black community,’ Kelechi tells Metro.co.uk.
‘It can often lead to inappropriate, harsher, or even ineffective treatment with Black people being more likely to be detained, sectioned and restrained.’
Kelechi experienced inadequate care from a mental healthcare professional that was only remedied when she was seen by a counsellor from a similar cultural background to herself.
Having a Black therapist made Kelechi feel listened to, understood and seen. So, she founded The Black Mind Initiative to help ensure that more people from Black and minoritized communities can experience mental health support that is more suited to their needs.
People from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities have a higher risk of developing mental health conditions than white people – but they are less likely to be able to access mental health services.
Currently, only one in 14 counsellors in the UK are from a Black or other ethnic minority background, and this is what Kelechi is hoping to change.
The Black Mind Initiative aims to reform the current mental health system nationally, by encouraging Black people to take a degree related to the mental health profession. The programme will then support them in their studies and encourage them to work in senior roles in mental healthcare.
Kelechi runs the initiative with a collection of Black students (Picture: The Black Mind Initiative)
The representation of the Black community in mental healthcare is considerably low, and when it comes to leadership roles – such as clinical psychiatrists, psychologists and consultants – there is barely any representation at all.
‘The people in the boardrooms, making the basis for these treatments, neither look like us nor understand us, yet they have the authority to make the decisions most affecting our community,’ says Kelechi.
‘Many organisations make big statements about committing to diversity in the workplace, but if this diversity isn’t being reflected in the boardrooms, then what changes are really being made?
‘This isn’t to downplay the importance of having Black people in other roles in the mental health service, as diversity throughout the workforce is very important. However, having Black people in senior roles means the necessary changes are being made from the top down, which is better for both Black service users and other Black professionals.’
The initiative, run by Kelechi and fellow Black students, is a non-profit organisation that aims to provide the tools for the next generation of mental health professionals, so they can break the cycle of systemic racism within the mental health service.
The aims of the Black Mind Initiative
The initiative has four aims:
- Educate communities on structural racism within mental health healthcare and the impact it has on Black mental health.
- Encourage young people into the mental health profession, so the next generation is aware of the needs of the Black community.
- Equip young people with the necessary tool and skills for the mental health profession. Connecting them with current Black mental health professionals for advice and guidance.
- Engage in conversations about systematic racism in mental healthcare with local council and lobby for detailed cultural competency training for current mental health professionals.
The initiative will offer interactive sessions in schools, colleges and universities with Black professionals who can tell students about their journey, and offer tips to help them.
There will also be networking events between current professionals and the next generation, as well as matching young people with mentors in the field.
Supporting the students and their initiative is Professor Sotaro Kita, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick, he comments:
‘Having been in the psychology profession for 25 years I have seen first-hand how our knowledge about human mind is based on skewed information.
‘It is based on studies conducted with participants from a small section of the world, majority white participants in Western Europe and North America. In this globalised world, and in this multicultural Britain, the conventional psychological knowledge and practice are showing its limitations.
‘We need more diverse perspectives. This initiative will contribute to solving this problem in the area of mental health.
‘I hope that their initiative will help shape the future of psychology, and that we will see more ethnic diversity among mental health professionals and researcher.’
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