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Midweek Mindset

Why the Government’s rhetoric on mental health fails to match reality

October 17, 2018

By: Jenna Rachid

Why the Government’s rhetoric on mental health fails to match reality

In an opinion piece for the Guardianauthor and lecturer Clare Allan, suggests that a large proportion of the mental health crisis is down to government policy.

Continuing to talk about the mental health is a ‘convenient red herring,’ Allan writes. ‘What certainly does stop people getting help is a lack of available support. And, after all, if people are so reluctant to seek help, why are the waiting lists so long?’

A recent survey conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that some patients waited up to 13 years to access sufficient treatment.

‘It’s about stopping seeing mental health as a discrete entity, and the mental health crisis as having nothing to do with government-imposed austerity: with the freeze on working-age benefits, with the housing crisis – rates of rough sleeping have more than doubled since 2010 – the slashing of council budgets, legal aid, Sure Start and education spending. Let’s address that. Then we can talk about stigma.’ Allan adds.

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 Black and minority ethnic (BME) groups ‘get worse mental health service’

BME groups in Scotland receive ‘unequal access to mental health services,’ the BBC reports.

According to doctors, there is a recognisable lack of targeted mental health support for BME communities.

Professor Sashi Sashidharan, a Consultant psychiatrist, told the BBC that cultural issues, language and stigma present as additional barriers in accessing mental health support for the BME community.

He said: ‘Generally it would appear that if you are from a minority ethnic group in Scotland you get a worse kind of mental health experience.’

‘There is a huge gap in the data that is available. This prevents us from understanding this problem. This prevents the health boards and the government from taking appropriate action,’ he added.

Charity REACH seeks to provide health and wellbeing support to members of ethnic minority communities. The charity’s directors, Shabir Banday, said: ‘By having psychologists and counselling in the GP surgery you can often try to break the barriers.’

‘First you somehow normalise mental health as any other health issue, so you dilute the stigma which all the communities have,’ he added.

The Scottish government has said it recognises members of BME communities can find it difficult to talk about mental health. Adding that reducing inequalities and addressing the barriers in accessing mental health support is part of the planned actions for this parliament.

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