Government must take effective action to prevent poor mental health among young Black men, says new Centre for Mental Health report

24 March 2022

The Government needs to take urgent and concerted action to address the causes of poor mental health among young Black men in the UK, a report from Centre for Mental Health says today.

Shifting the Dial, by Androulla Harris and Kadra Abdinasir, reports on the evaluation of a three-year programme to promote better mental health among young Black men in Birmingham. The programme was run by a partnership of Birmingham Repertory Theatre, First Class Foundation, Centre for Mental Health and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

The Shifting the Dial programme worked with more than 500 young Black men, offering peer support, mentoring, theatre productions, skills development and community events.

The evaluation of the programme was conducted in partnership with peer researchers supported by Centre for Mental Health. They find that participating in Shifting the Dial activities boosted young men’s self-confidence, challenged mental health stigma, hope for the future and feelings of belonging. This was especially important during the pandemic, when many young men were isolated and lonely. And in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, participating in Shifting the Dial gave young Black men a space to express their feelings of depression, anxiety and anger.

The Shifting the Dial programme highlighted the struggles young Black men face in their everyday lives as a result of structural racism and discrimination. While the programme provided a safe space away from these struggles, it showed the need for larger scale change to make mental health equality possible for young Black men growing up in a white-dominated society.

The report concludes that structural change is vital to address the causes of poor mental health among young Black men in Britain. It calls on the Government to commit to tackling all forms of racism and discrimination, including in schools, policing, employment and health care. It says the NHS should invest in tailored support for young Black men’s mental health in the next phase of the Long Term Plan. And it calls on charitable bodies to ensure Black-led organisations get fair access to funding, especially for programmes aiming to improve health in racialised communities.

Centre for Mental Health peer researcher Alex Augustine said: “Life as a young Black man in western society can have a huge negative impact on your mental health. One of the key findings from Shifting the Dial is the lack of mentors and role models that young Black men have to look up to, and the positive feelings in young people when they attend mentoring programmes or spaces. We need to do more to help Black men get into well paid employment, where they can make a living for themselves and be positive role models and mentors to younger generations.”

CJ Lloyd Webley, Lead Artist (with Mathias Andre) at the Lightpost Theatre Company, said: “The evidence found in this report is a stark reminder for why such service provisions are imperative for the functionality of society. This work must continue to ensure that young Black men’s mental health remains a top priority. Through positive role modelling and the creation of safe spaces within Lightpost and the wider Shifting the Dial partnership, young Black men are encouraged, protected and inspired to achieve their potential.”

Founder Trustee of First Class Foundation, Nathan Dennis said: “The evidence is here. Invest in real long term and tangible solutions to prevent mental health difficulties. The cost savings for government could be astronomical. For every fifteen young people we prevent from entering Mental Health Secure Units we could save over £3 million per year.”

Download the report

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