Everyday life has a big impact on mental health, and black communities in the UK are still more likely than others to experience problems such as bad housing, unemployment, stress, racism and immigration issues, all of which can make people ill.
There’s nothing unusual or shameful about mental illness because most of us have problems at some time in our lives, such as money worries, stress at work or the death of a loved one, which can affect our mental health.
Facts and figures around Mental Health in the UK
• 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
• Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain
• Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men
• About 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time
• Depression affects 1 in 5 older people
• Suicides rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women
• Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population
• Only 1 in 10 prisoners has no mental disorder
However, it seems that people who move from one country to another have a higher risk of mental illness. This is especially true for black people who move to predominantly white countries, and the risk is even higher for their children. So while mental illness is no more common in Africa or the Caribbean than it is in the UK as a whole, it is a bigger problem for African and African Caribbean communities living in the UK.
That means that looking after your mental health, as well as your family’s and friends’, is important. You should also know who to speak to if things go wrong.
Where to go for help
"If you're worried, seek help as soon as possible," says Kathryn. Getting good care early can make a big difference. If you know something’s not right, don’t pretend that everything is OK. There are many people who can help, but the NHS is usually the best place to start.
The NHS is there for everyone, and its mental health services should meet everyone’s needs equally well. They may be able to put you in touch with organizations outside the NHS that can help. Either way, you’re entitled to a service that treats you as an individual, respects your culture and faith, and can help you if English isn’t your first language.
Talk to your GP first. GPs aren’t just there for your physical health. They have experience in helping people with mental health problems too. They can also refer you to specialist services. If you don’t have a GP, register with one. If you need to talk to someone urgently, you can call:
• NHS Direct: 0845 4647
• SANEline: 0845 767 8000
• Samaritans: 0845 790 9090
Protecting your mental health
"Keeping your mind and body healthy can help," says Kathryn. "This includes eating well, drinking in moderation and getting enough exercise."
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that, for mild to moderate depression, exercise can be more effective than antidepressants. GPs can refer you for exercise therapy.
"Exercise, staying healthy and talking therapies can also help with anxiety and more serious mental illness," says Kathryn.
If you have a family member or friend with a mental illness, be supportive. Keep in touch with them and make sure they know they can talk to you if they want to. "Remember that most people with mental illness are not violent," says Kathryn. Let your friend know you're there, but also keep boundaries." You can't be their counsellor, but let them know you'll help them access the support they need.
1.Mental health foundation, ‘Mental Health Statistics’,
2.Nhs Choices, ‘Mental Health’