A lack of cultural representation in the mental health sector has led to a dearth of trust and confidence in professionals, Healthwatch Salford has found.
The ‘Mind Over Matter’ report – published on Monday March 13 – outlined the key reasons why people are reluctant to access mental health support and services in Salford.
The study included an initial scoping workshop, surveys and focus groups that took place during August and September 2022. Over 272 people contributed towards the project.
A key finding was that there is a need for clinical staff to be more culturally aware and understanding of people’s different backgrounds and beliefs.
Mental health services need to work more closely with community groups that represent people from marginalised backgrounds in order to ensure they understand mental health and to help dispel myths around medication.
Social Adventures is one community group in Salford that aims to inspire people to lead healthier and happier lives.
Kate Simpson, the organisation’s service director, said: “It’s about finding the right sorts of services for people.
“We’re all always striving to work with different groups and reach different groups – at Social Adventures we’ve worked quite hard to employ people who are from the different communities and who represent the different communities so that we can try and overcome that barrier.”
The study also found that just over 1 in 5 people felt suicidal or that life was not worth living. One hundred and twenty-two people had experienced depression, and 132 people had experienced anxiety.
Nearly half of the survey respondents had experienced loneliness at some point in the past two years.
Focus groups undertaken by the Caribbean and African Health Network found there was a particular stigma attached to the mental health crisis within the black community. There was a particular reliance on religious beliefs and faith groups for solutions and support with mental health issues.
The study also found that many black residents in Salford do not trust health and social care services. Key reasons for this include previous bad experiences, long-standing systemic biases and the perception that government services do not understand the struggles of minority communities.
Another key issue the study looked at was loneliness. Healthwatch Salford suggested that commissioners and local community groups look at tackling this issue by supporting social interactions between people to help alleviate mental health referrals in the first instance.
Ms Simpson from Social Adventures said: “It’s hard to reach people who are lonely and who are possibly just at home and are also older and don’t use social media.
“With mental health, our approach as an organisation is very much non-clinical – so a lot of it is Salford people working with Salford people and that’s where we always try and pitch it. It’s about building up trust.
“We also have co-production groups of people that access our services so that we can get their direct feedback on what they want to see and where the barriers are and how we can help more people.”
A key solution suggested by the study’s respondents was more comprehensive and culturally-diverse advertising of mental health services. By having more staff at the forefront who identify with different minority backgrounds, services would appear more representative and therefore more accessible.
Another popular suggestion was improvements in the accessibility of mental health services. Support extended outside of working hours would enable more people to access help without feeling compromised by employment constraints.
The report has already received positive feedback from mental health commissioners across Greater Manchester such as Start Inspiring Minds.
Healthwatch Salford will revisit the project towards the end of 2023.