Shifting the Dial

24 March 2022

Evaluating a community programme to promote young Black men’s mental health

Androulla Harris, Kadra Abdinasir, Alex Augustine, Amarno Inai, Ibrahim Hirsi and Shaheem Carty

Young Black men are overrepresented in restrictive mental health settings, but are less likely to get early community-based mental health support.

Shifting the Dial shares learning from a three-year project to promote the mental health and wellbeing of young Black men in Birmingham. The project built upon the findings from our evaluation of an earlier pilot, Up My Street. Shifting the Dial has worked with more than 500 young Black men, offering peer support, mentoring, theatre productions, skills development and community events.

Two cornerstones of Shifting the Dial are Dear Youngers, a mental health and wellbeing forum run by First Class Foundation, and Lightpost Theatre Company, a theatre group for young Black men aiming to strengthen their mental wellbeing and resilience.

Young Black men face stark mental health inequalities, compounded by experiences of racism and discrimination.

This report is an evaluation of the Shifting the Dial programme, produced in partnership with peer researchers. It explores how the programme improved wellbeing and self-confidence among the young men involved, during a period of extreme adversity due to the pandemic and the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd.

Young men saw numerous positive changes in themselves as a result of attending Shifting the Dial activities, including: a greater sense of purpose and drive to pursue their goals, more self-belief and confidence, and trusting relationships with peers and relatable role models. Participating in Lightpost Theatre Company and Dear Youngers were seen as pre-emptive steps to prevent their mental health getting worse, through belonging, self-expression and providing a remedy to stress.

The report concludes that structural change is vital to address the causes of poor mental health among young Black men in Britain. It calls for:

  • The Government to commit to tackling all forms of racism and discrimination, including in schools, policing, employment and health care
  • The NHS to invest in tailored support for young Black men’s mental health in the next phase of the Long Term Plan
  • Charitable bodies to ensure Black-led organisations get fair access to funding, especially for programmes aiming to improve health in racialised communities.

The Shifting the Dial partnership consists of Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Centre for Mental Health, First Class Foundation and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Hear from two of our peer researchers on how their work shaped the evaluation:

Watch to find out more about the projects that make up Shifting the Dial:

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