Working together to ensure young people from racialised communities can access appropriate mental health support

7 May 2021

Existing systemic inequalities have driven the disproportionately damaging impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on young people’s mental wellbeing and healthcare from racialised communities. Change needs to happen.

UK Youth, Centre for Mental Health and The Diana Award are excited to announce a new collaboration that aims to reimagine mental health support for young people from racialised communities.

Collectively we recognised the need for change to create culturally competent mental health services that can meet the needs of young people from racialised communities.

The project will be led by young people aged 16-25 with lived experience of mental health issues and racial injustices and has been made possible thanks to £655,000 of funding raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

When young people from racialised communities do access support, it’s often not fit for purpose. The practitioners working with young people often lack cultural competence: the awareness, skills and expertise required.

This can create more profound trauma for the young person, especially if they are expected to minimise or dismiss their own lived experience of racism. During the traumatic year of the Covid-19 pandemic, these experiences have been magnified among young people whose communities have been affected disproportionately by the virus, by job loss, educational disadvantage, and lockdown policing.

This programme will give young people from racialised communities a seat at the table and an opportunity to reimagine and affect change within mental health support.

The partnership brings together the expertise, insight and reach required to drive forward change. We will be led by, and share power with, young people. The name, design and direction of the programme will be co-created alongside young people; our network of Changemakers.

Recruitment for Changemakers will begin over the Summer of 2021. From the offset, we’ll build their capacity to lead change through a transformational personal development journey, culminating in youth-led social action projects that create tangible, impactful outputs to bring about lasting change in mental health promotion, protection and provision. Changemakers may decide to play a fundamental part in:

  • Policy Influencing
  • Engaging and Upskilling Frontline Practitioners
  • Changing Public Attitudes
  • Peer to Peer Support

The collaboration has been awarded £650,000 through the Postcode Recovery Fund thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, a fund created to support charities in developing innovative solutions that address the many issues affecting people society recovers from the effects of the pandemic.

Centre for Mental Health Chief Executive Sarah Hughes said, “Racism is toxic to mental health. Our research working with young people has highlighted the impact of racial injustice on their mental health and how this gets reinforced in their experiences of mental health support. We’re excited to be a part of this project to put young people in the lead in challenging racial injustice and improving responses to mental health.

“This is also an excellent opportunity for racialised young people to be at the heart of research and evaluation to get a more accurate picture of their experiences. Their voices have been missing from the debate. We have a lot to learn, and we hope it will drive real and lasting social and system change.”

Ndidi Okezie, CEO, UK Youth, said, “Over the past year, there has been a real social awakening to the responsibilities we all have to understand the experiences of others better. Both race and mental health have been firmly placed ‘on the agenda’ of critical issues; in very concrete ways. But there is still inadequate support for young people’s mental health, particularly from communities of colour.

“The lived experiences and diverse cultural backgrounds of young people need to inform the services they access. Here’s where the Changemakers are required, to give young people from racialised communities a meaningful seat at the table.”

Tessy Ojo CBE, The Diana Award, said, “Whilst young people may not have been the face of this pandemic, we know they risk being among its most prominent victims, as their lives are nonetheless being changed in profound ways. Our recent survey with young people showed that two areas of concern to young people over the past year are, the increased incidents of racist bullying, with over half of young people telling us about racist incidents in their schools and concerns over their mental wellbeing.

“This project allows us to tackle these issues by going beyond the surface and providing the support needed to help young people recover, thrive and embed the changes needed for themselves and future generations.”

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said, “This project addresses the pressing need for young people’s support services which has escalated during the pandemic. Thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the charity partners have the funds to make resources fit for purpose for those who need them, and drive change to benefit young people well beyond the pandemic.”

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