Young Black men’s lives blighted by Covid-19, says Centre for Mental Health

9 March 2021

Young Black men’s mental health has been hit hard by the pandemic and urgent cross-government action is needed now to avoid jeopardising their futures, according to a briefing published today by Centre for Mental Health.

Young Black men’s mental health during Covid-19 explores evidence of the unequal effects of Covid-19 on young Black men, including from the Shifting the Dial project in Birmingham that Centre for Mental Health is evaluating. It finds that:

  • Disruption to education is widening inequalities experienced by young Black men, who are more likely to be excluded and have their grades underpredicted
  • Young Black men aged 16-25 are amongst the hardest hit by job losses and are more likely to report a fall in income because of lockdown
  • Covid-19 enforcement and policing are disproportionately affecting young Black men, who are much more likely to be stopped and searched and issued fines for breaching lockdown measures
  • As a result of some of these challenges, young Black men are at risk of higher levels of mental distress during the pandemic compared to other groups.

The Shifting the Dial programme is working to boost the mental health of young Black men in Birmingham.

Shifting the Dial is a partnership involving Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Centre for Mental Health, First Class Foundation and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation NHS Trust and is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

The partnership is concerned that young Black men have been largely overlooked in the Covid-19 response.

Centre for Mental Health head of children and young people Kadra Abdinasir said: “The pandemic and the recent wave of the Black Lives Matter movement have shone a spotlight on structural racism in the UK. Young Black men are caught at the intersection between the current crisis and longstanding inequalities. They are bearing the brunt, and the worst may be yet to come.

“Young Black men have been overlooked in the pandemic response. Even before the pandemic, they faced significant mental health inequalities and were less likely to have their needs appropriately met by mainstream mental health services. It is now essential that concerted action is taken to prevent the current crisis from blighting young Black men’s lives long-term.”

The briefing calls for urgent cross-government action to address the inequalities faced by young Black men, and to offer tailored support to protect their mental health and future prospects. The NHS should invest in specific support for young Black men, including work directly with community organisations and efforts to build a more representative mental health care workforce.

The briefing also calls for targeted educational and employment support for young Black men, a moratorium on all school exclusions in the aftermath of the pandemic, and a review into their policing during the pandemic.

Founder Trustee of First Class Foundation, Nathan Dennis said: “We need to make sure that young Black men’s lives matter and take urgent action to address the many challenges they are facing. We need to ensure organisations have the proper resources they need to tackle the disproportionality and inequalities this review shows. We need action and we need it now.”

CJ Lloyd Webley, Lead Artist (with Mathias Andre) at the Lightpost Theatre Company, said: “In the current climate we are delighted that we have been able to provide a safe space for young Black men from different backgrounds to jointly and individually articulate their concerns, thoughts and feelings on issues without fear of judgement. Our 1-1 mindset coaching and mentoring sessions allow the group to feel empowered and prepared to break down any barriers they may face. It is our duty and privilege to continue this work which supports young Black men to build mental health resilience and challenge perceptions.”

Download the report here

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