Mental Health Awareness – Breaking the BAME Stigma

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To mark Mental Health Awareness Week  2020, our Race and Equality Network members Janeena Sahota and Tokeer Ahmed report on the challenges and cultural stigma faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities around mental health and well-being.

Janeena Sahota
Tokeer Ahmed

Janeena and Tokeer tell us:

There are a number of reasons why a stigma is still prominent in these communities; feelings of embarrassment, drawing attention to your family name and the perception that it is wrong to talk openly about mental health.

The following case study provides an insight into the journey of a BAME individual who faced mental health challenges. It details his challenges and how he overcame them.

“My job as a Project Manager across three small projects meant that I juggled a lot of my time between various issues and meetings. I seemingly thought I was good at multi-tasking. At home, my income supported both my partner and three children. I am also often the decision-maker at home.

18 months ago, I began to feel that something was not right. I couldn’t quite explain it but there were a lot of feelings which felt overwhelming. My immediate reaction was to just “sweep it under the carpet”. After some time the feelings of being disconnected continued, I noticed it was affecting my personality both at home and in work. Small things would now begin to irritate me or worse I would doubt myself and panic over the smallest of issues.

At the time I kept all this to myself. I did not want to speak to anybody about it at work, as I felt that it would be seen as a weakness and people would question my ability to conduct my job properly. At home I did not want to speak about it as I did not want my partner to worry. Also part of my thinking was always going to the consequences of what could happen… I would lose my job, how would I provide for my family…etc.

About a year into feeling like this and using the internet as my only source of research (which can be very bad!) I decided to go and visit my GP, it was probably the best decision I have made in my entire life. Talking about my concerns to someone else felt like I had taken a huge weight off my shoulders. My GP referred me for some counselling. The first session I attended no one else knew about it, but I felt like I was making small steps into admitting that there was something that needed changing.

Before my second session I had made the step to tell my partner with guidance from my counsellor. My partner was encouraging and confided that they knew something was not right for a while but was afraid to bring it up. In hindsight I should have shared my issues a lot sooner with somebody. From specific advice from my counsellor I was able to raise concerns in my job and I was able to take some time off from the role. This really helped me to re-set and on return I was able to take on a slower paced role than before.

My one takeaway is that voicing concerns around mental health should not be seen as a weakness. It is weak not to voice them because, like me, the concerns will continue to build up with no outlet. The most important part for me was having the first conversation and that could be with anyone, a colleague, a partner, a GP.”

Did you know…?

  • 1 in 4 people from BAME communities do not share their mental health issues*
  • 1 in 4 BAME people who have struggled with their mental health keep their issues to themselves, believing they do not know anyone that would understand*
  • Research from mental health charity Mind also found that 50% don’t speak about mental health as they do not want to burden someone with their mental health issues*

At Capgemini, we recognise the importance of breaking the mental health stigma and our workplace being an open forum to have healthy discussions and provide support. Here are some key takeaways to consider regarding breaking the stigma for BAME individuals around mental health:

  • Encourage communication & conversations – It is key to connect with colleagues about such issues, as often speaking to an individual/group who are experiencing similar things or have done so previously can allow you to open up more freely.
  • Investigate and practice mindfulness – Look at easy and simple ways you can practice mindfulness in your daily life, this will help with your mental wellbeing. For example, take a walk, observe your breathing, meditate daily etc.
  • Look at the support on offer at work – Capgemini offers a Mental Health Champions programme, which is a great initiative for colleagues to speak to someone about any mental health related concerns you may be facing.

We hope that this has shed some light into the challenges around mental well-being that BAME members often face.

References: https://www.bipolaruk.org/news/1-in-4-people-from-bame-communities-dont-talk-about-their-mental-health

Author


Bal Gill

Head of Employee Experience & Inclusion

 

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