Race Disparity Commission report falls far short of offering solutions for equality in mental health and life chances in Britain

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31 March 2021

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report provides a partial picture of racial injustice in the UK and its effects on mental health and life chances, and fails to make recommendations to bring about change, Centre for Mental Health says today.

Responding to the Commission’s report, Centre for Mental Health deputy chief executive Andy Bell said: “We have known for decades that racism is toxic to mental health and that people from racialised communities too often have a poorer experience of mental health support. Racism cannot be separated from financial inequality and other forms of oppression: they are inextricably linked and they combine to create deep and stark inequalities both inside and outside the mental health system.

“Today’s report provides a partial and incomplete picture of what drives the dramatic inequalities in mental health that are experienced by racialised communities in Britain. Racial inequality and injustice are deeply entrenched in our society and the harm they cause can last a lifetime. Too often they are reflected and reinforced in people’s interactions with public services including health and care.

“While the Commission’s report makes some constructive recommendations about the need to tackle racism and to invest in effective interventions to address disadvantage, it falls short of explaining what causes the disparities it observes and it misses the opportunity to make the case for real change.”

Centre for Mental Health associate director of children and young people’s mental health Kadra Abdinasir said: “Young Black people consistently tell us about their experiences of racism and discrimination in their everyday lives, especially in school. Excessive use of restrictive interventions and exclusions further harm young people’s health and cast a long shadow over their life chances. So it is disappointing that the report today vindicates the use of harsh discipline at a time when many children are even more vulnerable after months of lockdown.

“The attritional and traumatic effects of racism are harming too many young people’s mental health. For many, the right support isn’t there when they need it. And for some this leads to the use of force and police intervention when their mental health reaches crisis point. This serves only to reinforce the trauma and cause long-term harm to individuals and communities.

“This cannot be brushed under the carpet. Too many people’s painful and traumatic experiences have been denied. Too many people’s voices have been silenced. Further dismissing and denying people’s experiences will only serve to heighten their distress, deepen their distrust and exacerbate their alienation.

“We urgently need a new start: to recognise the harm caused by racism and to find collective solutions to bring about better mental health for all. Today’s report will not provide the framework for that change to start happening. We will continue to work with communities and with organisations committed to bringing about a fairer society where everyone’s mental health is valued equally and supported effectively throughout our lives.”

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