Spotlight on black mental health

13 December 2016

Black men in the UK are facing a mental health crisis. A new BBC series examines why

 

If you are a black man in Britain, you are 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious mental health condition and six times more likely than a white man to be an inpatient in a mental health unit.

 

These statistics are truly shocking, but what's more, these problems are often suffered in silence.

 

Zimbabwe-born, London-based writer and presenter, Keith Dube set out to uncover just why the black community is facing such a crisis in the BBC 3 documentary Being Black, Going Crazy with scenes filmed at Park Royal Centre for Mental Health in Harlesden.

 

Keith Dube had depression himself and says the environment he grew up in intensified his illness. "When I moved to London at 18, I got into a few things that I shouldn't have been getting into, which led to my struggles with mental health. If you showed weakness you'd get eaten alive," he says. "I think men in general grow up being told that you have to be tough, that to show emotion is a sign of weakness."

 

"When I saw the diagnosis stats, I thought it was outright racism. But, as I went on, I discovered a lot of black people report their issues a whole lot later. If you or I go through mental health issues at the same age, but you report your issues at 12 years old and I wait until I'm 28 to report mine, our problems are at different stages - mine will be a lot further gone, because you've started dealing with yours earlier.

 

"It's not even that we have worse mental health issues, it's because of the taboo in the community. Most people don't talk about it. Their issues fester, and that's how it leads to problems such as sectioning."

 

Dube adds that the feeling of shame is particularly pronounced in immigrant communities where people struggle with a sense of failure and of letting their families down. "Lots of us grow up with parents who just got on with things. They came over to the UK, worked crazy long hours and didn't complain, so to say 'I feel this way and I don't know why' just feels wrong."

 

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by mental health issues, there are many people who can help:

  • Book an appointment to see your GP - they will be able to refer you to the most appropriate form of help.
  • Ask your GP to refer you to the "talking therapy" service run by Brent IAPT. There are group or single therapy sessions available.
  • Speak with someone at Brent MIND - www.brentmind.org.uk

Being Black, Going Crazy? is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer