Many of us may have noticed a new and growing openness around mental health in the past few years. Whether it be in the workplace, in schools and universities, among our friends or even online, the tendency to take mental health more seriously than ever before has also been sharpened by the effects of the pandemic.
However, there is still a disconnect between younger generations’ understanding of mental health resources and the ways our parents and grandparents seem stuck on the outskirts of such conversations, as changing school curriculums and online platforms may seem out of reach for older generations.
A lack of outreach efforts towards them also leaves a sizable part of the population feeling like conversations around mental health are not for them, which can have devastating consequences at the scale of our society — especially for minority ethnic communities.
First-generation immigrants, for example, carry with them a history that is impossible to understand without adequate training around potentially very traumatic life experiences. Lack of proper attention to what may have affected their mental health can potentially leave many isolated and misunderstood in a society where resentment, division, and discrimination is still ever-present.
Not only are the particular struggles faced by marginalised communities under-discussed, but the ways they can affect mental health conditions also go unaccounted for. There are very few resources that attempt to understand how discrimination, experiences of immigration, racism, and sexism may play into conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and many more.
This leaves many with no tools for mental health care at their disposal — reinforcing inequalities in care that mirror the inequalities of our society at large.
Another consequence of the lack of appropriate mental healthcare for older generations is the generational disconnect with their own children and grandchildren, whose difficulties to relate to their experiences may be exacerbated by the lack of a common language to discuss mental health struggles, potentially triggering resentment, isolation, and a loss of family ties.
This feeling of isolation can be mirrored in the said children who can then suffer from intergenerational trauma, particularly if they’re women and from minoritised groups.
Lacking the tools to discuss such trauma with their families on common grounds, they are also faced with a society that does not seriously attempt to understand how the weight of their ancestors’ experiences, combined with the daily instances of discrimination and microaggression they still face, interact with their own mental health.
As non-British, non-White, and non-middle-class experiences are pushed to the backburner, there is a clear inequality in the appropriate mental health care available for minority-ethnic communities, which mirrors the existing health, primary care, and income inequalities in England.
Ethnicity, class, and gender all affect our life experiences and mental health. This means that care providers must have appropriate, tailored training to understand and unpack diverse experiences in helpful ways. But, as the costs of care keep rising, women- and minorities-specific services do not seem to take priority.
The populations who suffer the most from this lack of experience-specific care are the same people who are often left behind in our society, showing that healthcare is no exception to reproducing patterns of exclusion and discrimination. This can lead to growing divisions and a lack of empathy for experiences different to our own, which can in turn have consequences as drastic as xenophobia and rising hate crime.
Even when trauma-informed care does exist, it is not easily found — especially in geographically remote and impoverished areas. When it is, there are still many barriers to access, such as cost and language, which particularly affect older and hard-to-reach people.
Witnessing mental health becoming an open conversation in everyday life is undeniably a good thing. But the work must continue until there are consistent outreach efforts for all people, a general understanding of how systemic discrimination affects mental health, and institutions that provide high-quality resources tailored to the needs of a diverse population with a multitude of needs.
We must also take an active stance in reaching populations that have not been prioritised — not only for their own benefit but in order to build a society that is empathetic to everyone’s experiences and understands how such diversity can only enrich us. Anything less than an active effort to prioritise the mental health of all people will simply result in reinforced inequalities in our society.
Mental health in marginalised communities is a great concern for us at JAN Trust. This is why we offer mentoring and workshops to marginalised populations, which you can find more information about on our website.